India has set its sights on the 2019 Asian Games to be staged in New Delhi, a sporting spectacle it hopes will demonstrate the Narendra Modi-led NDA government's organising capabilities and restore the country's image spoiled by the scandal-ridden 2010 Commonwealth Games.
A successful bid and hosting of the Asian Games could boost the NDA's political standing and stand in stark contrast to the previous government's handling of the Commonwealth Games that was marked by shambolic preparations and corruption allegations against the organisers.
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"We would be very happy if we can get to host the Games in 2019. At the moment we are waiting for the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to present us with the proposal. So let us see if it can be submitted in time," Sarbananda Sonowal, Union sports and youth affairs minister told HT.
Sources in IOA confirmed that there were plans to make a formal bid to host the Games in New Delhi, which has ready sports infrastructure built for the Commonwealth Games.
Vietnam quit as host of the 2019 Games in April, citing a lack of preparedness and concerned that holding the multi-sport event would not prove financially viable.
The Vietnamese government had said the state would be unable to raise funds for venues, urban infrastructure and facilities that would not be profitable in the years after the Games.
Within the next 20 days, the IOA has to present its proposal to the government, get it passed by the Prime Minister's Office and union cabinet before it can go ahead and place its bid before the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
The OCA has set July 1 as the deadline for countries interested in making a bid for the Games. Indonesia has said it was keen to step up as a replacement for Vietnam. Other likely bidders include Qatar and a probable joint bid by Malaysia and Singapore.
A final decision will be taken on September 20 during the next Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Bids are auctioned eight years before the Games. Originally scheduled for 2018, the XVIII edition of the Games has been deferred by a year to move the Games to the year before the 2020 Summer Olympics.
New Delhi has held the Asian Games twice — the first edition in 1951 and the 9th edition in 1982.