VIETNAM hosts its biggest-ever sporting event from today when thousands of regional athletes gather for the third Asian Indoor Games, and it has high hopes of putting on a successful show.
Despite the challenge of finding sponsors during the global financial crisis, organisers said everything was in place for the opening ceremony at My Dinh National Stadium the only event taking place outdoors.
"We have a chance to promote our country, our people," said Hoang Vinh Giang, secretary general of Vietnam's Olympic committee.
The communist government has invested more than US$100 million in the project, about one-third of which paid for the new Indoor Athletics Palace, Giang told AFP.
Other venues being used were built when the country hosted the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games six years ago.
They have been upgraded for this year's competition which Giang said will see about 5,000 athletes, coaches and managers from some 40 countries and regions.
Before the closing ceremony on Nov 8, they will have participated in more than 20 sports ranging from traditional athletics to regional specialities like Central Asian kurash, as well as less conventional disciplines like lion dancing and computer games.
With such a diverse agenda, the Asian Indoor Games give a wider group of athletes a chance at competition, said Wei Jizhong, sports adviser to the president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
Most events will take place in Vietnam's capital Hanoi and surrounding provinces. Others are scheduled for the southern commercial centre of Ho Chi Minh City.
"They are ready," Wei said when asked about Vietnam's preparedness.
Giang said that preparations began two years ago but the hardest part was finding sponsors among companies reluctant to advertise during the global financial crisis, although some were onboard now.
The organising committee must also refund US$1 million to the government with money raised through its marketing activities, he added.
"Now we think we can get more than US$2 million," he said.
Wei, the OCA presidential adviser, said he had no financial concerns about the Games because they were fully-backed by the government.
The hosts are expected to field the largest team, likely more than 500, followed by Thailand with about 420.
Further from home, Iran is sending a team of 367 while 130 will come from war-devastated Iraq. Tiny Bhutan's six-member squad will be the smallest.
Courtesy from Brunei Times