Asian Games: No 'penalty' for Vietnam pullout

(AFP) - Vietnam will not face any penalty for withdrawing from hosting the 2019 Asian Games, the influential Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said on Thursday.

OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah made the comment after a Vietnamese delegation expressed regret for the withdrawal during a visit to the body's headquarters in Kuwait.

"The unique (nature) of Asian sports is our strong unity and solidarity, which will be on top of any kind of penalty within (the) Asia sports family," he said in a statement.

"Our unity and solidarity are very unique - there isn't any kind of penalty, but support and understanding," he added.

Vietnam last week said that for financial reasons it had decided not to host the Games - the world's biggest multi-sports event after the Olympics - in Hanoi and would explore ways to formally withdraw.

The communist South-east Asian country has been hit by falling economic growth and with scant existing facilities to hold such a large event, public opposition was growing.

"Vietnam isn't experienced enough in hosting such a big scale of sports event," Vietnamese sports minister Hoang Tuan Anh said in the OCA statement.

"After understanding all of those obstacles and careful consideration, we are looking for OCA's sympathy and understanding on our withdrawal."

Indonesia is considered the strongest candidate to take over the 2019 Games, as Surabaya lost the vote by 29-14, although a source told AFP last week that two other candidates had emerged in East Asia.

Incheon in South Korea will host this year's edition of the quadrennial event, featuring nearly 50 sports and disciplines with more than 400 gold medals on offer.