Indonesia races against time with pride on the line

Exactly one year out from the opening ceremony of the world’s largest multi-sport event after the Olympics, the city’s Gelora Bung Karno sports complex, which was built more than half a century ago, is undergoing a drastic renovation.

A general view of the Gelora Bung Karno stadium undergoing renovation work in Jakarta, ahead of the 2018 Asian Games.

On a dusty construction site in central Jakarta, amid sacks of cement and bulldozers, hundreds of high-vis clad workers toil away to bring Indonesia’s Asian Games dream to life.

Exactly one year out from the opening ceremony of the world’s largest multi-sport event after the Olympics, the city’s Gelora Bung Karno sports complex, which was built more than half a century ago, is undergoing a drastic renovation.

Jakarta and Palembang, on the island of Sumatra, will host around 10,000 thousand athletes from 45 countries competing in 39 sports from August 18 to September 2, 2018.

As the Asiad’s top venue — hosting football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and archery — the 55-year-old Gelora Bung Karno will be under intense scrutiny.

But despite the fast-approaching deadline, the man responsible for upgrading the complex’s main stadium, Wikrama Wardana, recently told AFP there was still plenty of time to complete the job.

“We are going to do our best to finish it within the timeframe. Once the contract has ended, there will be enough time to prepare for the Asian Games more thoroughly,” Wardana said at the arena.

Indonesia has faced a race against time to be ready for the 18th Asian Games after original hosts Vietnam withdrew in 2014 due to financial problems, meaning the country has only had four years to prepare instead of the usual six.

It last hosted the Asian Games in 1962 in Jakarta, and for many Indonesians the Games will be the perfect chance to showcase the country’s sporting prowess, as well as its status as one of the world’s emerging economies.

But when the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) visited Indonesia in March, it warned the country it faced huge challenges, raising concerns about a lack of coordination between bodies carrying out different tasks, such as those building venues, organising the lighting and sound systems.

Observers from OCA have also raised questions about the suitability of the athletes’ village and transport to and from venues in a city notorious for major traffic congestion.