Indonesia has set aside worries about terrorism, street crime and Jakarta’s notorious traffic, saying it is ready to roll for the Asian Games in a week’s time.
Jakarta and Palembang in Sumatra are set to host about 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries for the August 18 to September 2 Games, the world’s biggest multi-sport event behind the Olympics.
Indonesia started with less time than most host countries after it agreed to hold the Games when Vietnam pulled out.
However, officials say they are ready to take the Games in their stride.
“There are no problems for the preparation so far, even if we have problems we will solve them right there right then,” chief organiser Erick Thohir told journalists Thursday.
Seventy percent of tickets have been sold for the opening ceremony in the capital Jakarta next Saturday, he added.
Despite worries about Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion, authorities say the implementation of an odd-even licence plate system is already bearing results.
“Traveling speed has improved by almost 60 percent, while travel time has improved 43 percent from 15.56 minutes per km to 8.86 minute per km,” Jakarta’s transportation agency chief, Andri Yansyah, told AFP.
Athletes and officials will travel on dedicated road lanes and schools will be closed to take the daily commute of millions of pupils out of the equation.
When Indonesia last hosted a major sports event, the 2011 SEA Games, two people died in a stadium stampede at the football final in Jakarta.
In a bid to safeguard the event, some 40,000 troops and police officers will be deployed in Jakarta and Palembang.
Indonesia suffered its deadliest terror attack in more than 10 years in May when suicide bombers killed 13 people in the nation’s second-biggest city Surabaya.
Police say they have been rounding up terror suspects and petty criminals in a pre-Games crackdown.
– Haze headache –
Haze from forest fires in Sumatra remains another potential headache for events in Palembang.
But Indonesian meteorologists have been monitoring weather conditions closely and extinguishing hotspots.
“We have been conducting weather modification efforts since May, including cloud seeding and water bombing,” Hary Tirto Djatmiko, spokesman for national meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, told AFP.
The Games’ preparation has not come without hiccups, however.
Indonesians have made a mockery of the Jakarta government’s decision to cover a toxic river near the athletes’ village with black nylon mesh over fears it will be an eyesore at the showpiece event.
Similarly, the city council was ridiculed for erecting Games’ banners with spelling mistakes.
Some social media users have also questioned why city sanitation workers — and not artists — were chosen to paint Games’ murals in parts of the city.
Palembang briefly made headlines last month when irate football fans ripped plastic seats from the stands after the home team lost and hurled them onto the pitch at a stadium scheduled to host the event.
Still, excitement is building ahead of the Games.
“The Asian Games atmosphere is quite obvious here in Palembang, we have murals everywhere and our LRT (light rail) is already running,” Palembang resident Nicky Anggraini told AFP.
“I’m definitely going to watch the Games, I can’t wait,” she added.