​Vietnam faces tough decision selecting host city for 2021 SEA Games

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are the favorites to secure the honor

An excavator working on the construction site of the Rach Chiec Sport Complex in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

With less than three months from the deadline to submit the hosting plan, Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has yet to determine whether the 2021 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games will be hosted by Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2015 the ministry, led by the then minister Hoang Tuan Anh, submitted a hosting plan for the 2021 SEA Games, proposing that Hanoi be the host city.

However, in February 2017, the sitting minister Nguyen Ngoc Thien publicly endorsed Ho Chi Minh City to become the host for the region’s biggest sporting competition, held biennially among 11 countries in Southeast Asia.

Though no official decisions have been made, the southern metropolis has already taken steps to prepare for hosting the event, including the construction of a VND3.45 trillion (US$152.1 million) stadium with a capacity of 50,000 seats in District 2.

Meanwhile, Hanoi has remained silent on the issue.

Urgent choice

In March Ho Chi Minh City unveiled its plan to host the 2021 SEA Games, which would cost over VND5 trillion ($220 million) in organization and upgrade expenses over the next five years.

The southern city later raised the estimated cost to over VND7.8 trillion ($343.61 million), including nearly VND6.9 trillion ($303.96 million) on upgrading existing venues and building new ones, while the rest is spent on organization.

Until now, the plan has yet to be formally approved by the municipal Party Committee due to remaining questions such as how sporting venues developed for the Games would be used after the it concludes, and its effectiveness in improving the city’s growth.

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture and Sports is set to attend a ‘hearing’ before the Party Committee this month to provide answers for these questions if the plan is to go through.

Any further delay would threaten to doom the city’s vision of hosting the 2021 SEA Games, as there are less than four years left until the Games commences.

“Hosting the 2021 SEA Games is of great significance to Ho Chi Minh City’s sport scene,” a local sports official asserted.

“Sporting venues such as Rach Chiec Sports Complex or Phu Tho Stadium have been planned on paper for 20-30 years, but would not have been realized if the city didn’t host the Games.”

Hanoi’s silence

While Ho Chi Minh City is busy with preparations for hosting the Games, Hanoi has remained inactive to await official decisions from the ministry.

To Van Dong, director of Hanoi’s Department of Culture and Sports, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the city would not put together a plan to host the competition until it is officially selected the host city by the government.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is set to submit the final hosting plan for the 2021 SEA Games to the government by the end of 2017, according to Vuong Bich Thang, head of the Vietnam Sports Administration.

“In the past, the Government didn’t allow the construction of new sporting venues, so Hanoi was practically the only choice to host the Games thanks to its developed sport infrastructure,” a ministry leader told Tuoi Tre.

“If Ho Chi Minh City also wants to host the competition, we will submit both hosting plans to the government to decide,” he said.

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