Thousands pour in Indonesia for Asian Games

Thousands of athletes are flying in as Indonesia makes final preparations to host the Asian Games — the world’s second biggest multi-sports event, taking place against a backdrop of terrorism fears, environmental concerns and logistical headaches.

Organisers are making reassuring noises about their arrangements but Indonesia has never hosted a sports event on this scale, with 16,000 competitors and officials descending on Jakarta and Palembang, a sleepy port city on Sumatra island.

While the Olympics has a slightly higher number of participants, the Asian Games is ahead in terms of complexity: it has 40 sports, including the full Olympic programme and some lesser-known regional favorites.

Olympic heavyweights China will expect to retain their position at the top of the medals table, ahead of Japan and South Korea — who will march with North Korea at the opening ceremony, and form joint teams in women’s basketball, canoeing and rowing.

For many of the 45 competing nations, who represent about two-thirds of humanity, the quadrennial event is the pinnacle of the sporting calendar, offering a chance for medals which remain elusive at Olympic level.

However, Saturday’s opening ceremony comes just three months after Indonesia suffered its deadliest terror attack in more than 10 years, when suicide bombers killed 13 people in the nation’s second-biggest city, Surabaya.

Indonesia’s notorious haze from forest fires is another concern, while organisers are hoping to mitigate Jakarta’s grinding traffic with dedicated lanes, banning odd and even licence plate numbers on alternate days and closing schools.

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Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.

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