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Asian Games: Indonesia shrugs off graft, organisation woes
[JAKARTA] Organisers of Indonesia's 2018 Asian Games insisted Wednesday preparations were on track after the build-up was hit by corruption allegations and concerns about faltering organisation.
With 18 months to go until the start of the world's biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics, the flurry of early problems has sparked worries in a country with a chequered history of hosting international tournaments.
When Indonesia hosted the South-east Asian Games in 2011, the event was marked by a major corruption scandal, delays in getting venues and infrastructure ready and a deadly stampede at the football final.
The latest graft case centres on allegations that two senior officials from the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) and a man outside the organisation embezzled about US$700,000 from a fund aimed at promoting the games, local media reported.
Police stepped up the probe this week by questioning several KOI officials and plan to quiz Erick Thohir, who is head of the committee as well as president of Italian football team Inter Milan, as a witness in the case.
The Olympic committee, which is part of an ad hoc body set up to organise the games, insisted preparations were not affected by the allegations.
"Everything is still being handled well, it's business as usual," KOI spokesman Raja Pane told AFP.
He said the officials under investigation - secretary-general Dody Iswandi and treasurer Anjas Rivai - had been suspended after being named suspects in the case late last year but would only be fired if convicted.
"We cannot just replace them if there hasn't been a verdict," said Mr Pane.
While he has not been accused of any wrongdoing, Mr Thohir this week said he was ready to go to prison if convicted of any "mistake".
Fuelling concerns, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) warned Monday Indonesia faced "huge" challenges to get ready for the games, which will be held in the cities of Jakarta and Palembang, after a visit to assess preparations.
OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam raised concerns about a lack of coordination between bodies carrying out different tasks, such as those building venues, organising the lighting and sound systems.
Jakarta was awarded the games in 2014 after the original host Vietnam withdrew due to financial problems, but the late decision meant the Indonesians had four years to prepare instead of the usual six.
The 18th Asian Games will run from August 18 to September 2 next year. Indonesia last staged the event in 1962, in Jakarta.