Asian Games: Cost of hosting multi-sports event too high, says Malaysia

(REUTERS) - Malaysia will consider replacing Vietnam as hosts of the 2019 Asian Games only if the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) helps foot the bill, a top official at the country's Olympic body has said.

Vietnam withdrew Hanoi as hosts of the multi-sport event in a surprise move on Thursday, citing a lack of preparedness and concerns that holding the quadrennial spectacle for the first time would not prove financially viable for its recovering economy.

Tunku Imran, the president of the Malaysian Olympic body, previously failed to persuade the OCA to modify the costs and profit-sharing terms and any bid from the Southeast Asians was reliant on the Kuwait-based body showing some flexibility.

"I'm sure that if we reveal the OCA's requirements to host the Games, even the public will ask us not to host it because of the steep amount. It needs to be reviewed," Sieh Kok Chi, the secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), said in Saturday's The Star newspaper.

"If we are asked, we will not agree immediately. We will consider it if the OCA are ready to review the conditions."

Hanoi was awarded the Games in November 2012 ahead of the Indonesian city of Surabaya with the cost of hosting the event, which had grown to consist of around 40 sports with athletes from 45 countries taking part, warding off many others.

Indonesian Olympic officials were cautious when asked if they were interested in rebidding, also citing concerns about the likely increased cost with less preparation time than originally budgeted for.

The shorter time frame ruled out Thailand, who have hosted the event a record four times since the inaugural one in India in 1951. Thailand will instead focus on bidding for the 2023 Games. "It is only five years from now. It is too soon for us to prepare for the 2019 Games," Yutthasak Sasiprabha, president of the Thai Olympic body, was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post.

Singapore International Olympic Committee member Ng Ser Miang told Reuters on Friday that the country was not interested in bidding, leaving the previous two hosts China and Qatar as possible alternatives.

The OCA said they will name a replacement host during its general assembly on Sept 20 in South Korea's Incheon, the hosts for this year's Asian Games.

The South Koreans will host a scaled-back edition from Sept 19-Oct 4 consisting of 36 sports and 13,000 athletes, who will use 49 competition and 54 training venues.

Economists have estimated the cost of hosting the 2019 edition as high as US$500 million (S$636 million).