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Indonesia ready to put on a show

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-13 09:35

A torchbearer for the Asian Games takes part in the torch relay on the Musi river in Palembang, Indonesia, on Aug 4. From Aug 18 to Sept 2, Jakarta and Palembang will host some 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries and regions. Abdul Qodir / AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesia has set aside worries about security and Jakarta's notorious traffic, and is ready to roll for the Asian Games.

Jakarta and Palembang in Sumatra are set to host 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries and regions for the Games, which open on Aug 18 and run until Sept 2 - the world's biggest multi-sport event behind the Olympics.

Indonesia started with less time than most host countries after it agreed in September 2014 to hold the Games when Vietnam pulled out.

"There are no problems for the preparation so far, and even if we have problems we will solve them right then and there," chief organizer Erick Thohir said on the weekend.

Seventy percent of tickets have been sold for the opening ceremony in Jakarta, he added.

Despite worries about the city's notorious traffic congestion, authorities say the implementation of an odd-even license 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 to 8.86 minutes per kilometer," said Andri Yansyah, Jakarta's transportation agency chief.

Athletes and officials will travel on dedicated 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 Southeast Asia Games, two people died in a stadium stampede at the soccer final in Jakarta.

To avoid problems and ensure security at these Games, some 40,000 troops and police officers will be deployed in Jakarta and Palembang.

Meanwhile, haze from forest fires in Sumatra remains another potential headache for events in Palembang, but meteorologists have been monitoring weather conditions closely and extinguishing hot spots.

"We have been conducting weather modification efforts since May, including cloud seeding and water bombing," said Hary Tirto Djatmiko, a spokesman for the national meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency.

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 soccer 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.

"The Games atmosphere is quite obvious here in Palembang; we have murals everywhere and our light rail transit system is already running," said resident Nicky Anggrain.

"I'm definitely going to watch the Games. I can't wait."

Agence France - presse

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