Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

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Jakarta’s Gridlock Will Be Biggest Hurdle at 18th Asian Games

Updated on
  • Orgnizers seek holidays for schools, change in office timings
  • Indonesia to host 15,000 atheletes during 18th Asian Games

With barely six months to go for Asia’s biggest sporting event, the main challenge is not the readiness of venues or athlete villages -- but Jakarta’s notorious traffic.

The Asian Games managers are now seeking to shut down schools and stagger office hours to ease traffic snarls and ensure the 18th edition of the event runs smoothly, said Erick Thohir, chairman of the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee. The organizers also want a dedicated road lane for the thousands of participating athletes and officials, he said.

The fully-renovated Gelora Bung Karno Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 Asian Games.

Photographer: Adek Berry/AFP via Getty Images

Jakarta and port city of Palembang in South Sumatra will jointly host the quadrennial event from Aug. 18, the first time the Southeast Asian country will organize the sporting extravaganza since 1962. More than 15,000 athletes and officials from 45 countries will vie for honors in 47 sporting disciplines -- more than the 30 sports at the Tokyo summer Olympics in 2020.

“The Asian Games is as big as Olympics in terms of participation of athletes and officials,” said Thohir, who is also the president of FC Internazionale Milano SpA , or Inter Milan, and D.C. United. “If you consider the number of sports, Asian Games will be bigger with 47 disciplines. The only concern about the success of this edition remains traffic in Jakarta.”

Metro Train Construction

The streets of Jakarta, a city of about 10 million people and the epicenter of business for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, are often congested, with traffic jams creating a major obstacle to logistics and economic activity. To overcome the problem, the provincial government is planning an electronic toll system to be rolled out in March 2019, when the first stage of a metro train service is completed.

With more than 10 million motorcycles and as many as 4 million cars already on Jakarta’s streets, the city administration is already toying with the idea of a congestion tax to discourage use of private vehicles. The city already has an odd-even rule linked to vehicle registration numbers for some of its busiest streets.

Jakarta Promises Pain for Drivers as Vehicle Entry Fees Planned

President Joko Widodo held a special meeting of his cabinet on Tuesday and directed officials to complete the construction of stadiums and sporting venues for the games at the earliest.

A successful conclusion of the Asian Games will also stimulate the nation’s economy and tourism, Thohir said. Participants of the Asian Games will be issued one-month visas that the organizers hope will draw athletes and spectators to famous tourist destinations like Bali and Borobodur, he said.

The Asian Games will cost about 6.6 trillion rupiah ($480 million), according to the organizing committee. About 54 hotels in three cities are expected to be fully occupied during the event, boosting the hospitality and transportation industries, Thohir said.

(Updates with details on cabinet meeting on games in seventh paragraph.)
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