Vietnam's refusal to host Asian Games a warning sign for sport

Posted by Rowland Jack on 18 April 2014

The announcement on 17 April that the Vietnamese government is withdrawing from responsibility for hosting the Asian Games in 2019 presents a difficult challenge for the Olympic Council of Asia. It also raises a broader issue for sport about unsustainable growth and high costs.

Since the initial celebration in 1951, the Asian Games has grown rapidly into one of the biggest sports events in the world, by any measure. As long ago as 1986 the Asian Games programme included more sports and events than the Olympic Games held two years previously (25 and 270 respectively, compared to 21 and 221). At its biggest in Guangzhou, China in 2010, there were 42 sports and 476 events in the Asian Games (far more than at Beijing 2008 or London 2012) and over 9,700 athletes, about 90% as many as at the Olympic Games.

Incheon, South Korea will host the 2014 edition in September and October. With 36 sports and 437 events it will be marginally smaller in scale than the Games in Guangzhou but still a very ambitious and expensive exercise. It remains to be seen what will happen subsequently but it would not be a surprise to see the Asian Games slimmed down in future.

In a recent piece published by LawInSport, I argued that the sports event hosting market is sending a strong signal to rights-holders: that they must reform or die. The news from Vietnam increases the urgency of the need for change.

Vietnam's refusal to host Asian Games a warning sign for sport

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