HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has withdrawn as the host of the 2019 Asian Games, saying it lacked funds and the country's reputation could be at risk if things don't go smoothly.
In a statement late Thursday, the government said hosting the event in Hanoi could "promote the country's image and position. However if the hosting is not properly and successfully prepared, it will have the opposite effect,"
The statement said public money "is limited and must be prioritized for other immediate tasks."
There was no immediate reaction from the Olympic Council of Asia, which organizes the event. The OCA website still had Hanoi scheduled as the 2019 host, with a video promoting the event.
The OCA will have to quickly decide on a replacement host, though it does have the benefit of an extra year as Hanoi was to have been the first games of a new schedule that would put the event the year ahead of the Summer Olympics. Incheon, South Korea, will host the Asian Games this year.
Surabaya, Indonesia, had been the other serious bidder for 2019, while Dubai, United Arab Emirates, expressed initial interest but withdrew.
Spending on sports venues and associated infrastructure for similar multi-sports events typically costs host countries in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Asian Games features similar events to the Summer Olympics but also include sports popular in Asia. More than 40 nations take part.
The Vietnamese government's decision to host the games had generated domestic opposition in the media and on blogs.
Many commentators had been asking why it was prepared to spend so much at a time when the economy was struggling to recover from a slump