Vietnam’s leaders recently met to discuss their commitment to host the Asian Games in 2019. After a careful review, the Vietnamese government concluded that successfully hosting the event would indeed improve the country’s prestige, but at the same time found that the risks associated were simply too high. If Vietnam did a poor job in preparation, the damage to the country’s image could far outweigh the benefits.

Vietnam Flag

Vietnam was awarded rights to host the event in 2012, beating out the Indonesian city of Surabaya. The government concluded that it would need to spend at least $150 million dollars to prepare for the event. Economists have projected that costs could rise as high as $500 million dollars.

While Vietnam has been one of Asia’s strongest economic performers over the last few years, the country’s infrastructure is simply not up to task for hosting a large event and the government faces numerous other problems, such as corruption and a large debt. Given these challenges, the government has concluded that it can’t spare the resources to prepare for the event.

World Cup problems causing others to reconsider?

Hosting sporting events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup, brings a lot of prestige to a country. National leaders attend the games to see their citizens compete, the international press will be reporting on the outcome of events, tourists and fans will fill up the hotels, resulting in a major economic benefit. Still, the recent experience of Brazil and Qatar, both of which are struggling with their obligations to host the World Cup, might be making some countries reconsider.

Brazil has been facing protests due to the World Cup for the last few years. At times, these protests even looked like they had the potential to boil over into the sweeping movements that have plagued unstable countries in the Middle East and Europe. Many Brazilians are upset that the government is willing to spend so much money to host the World Cup while the poor are struggling to deal with rampant inflation and inequity.

Qatar has also come under fire due to allegations of poor working conditions and low pay for construction workers. The country has seen its global reputation take a serious hit, all over an event that was supposed to bring it prestige. Given this experience, other governments might be feeling skittish.

Back in 2010, India hosted the Commonwealth games, mostly to global derision. Numerous construction problems, accusations of slave labor, poor attendance and other issues plagued the games. Even powerful Russia struggled with its Sochi obligations and came under strong criticism.

Who will replace Vietnam?

Given that we are already nearing the halfway point of 2014, any country that decides to host the Asian Games will have a tough task of getting ready in time for the 2019 games. Surabaya, the city beaten out in the last bidding round, may be asked to step forward but given the shortened time line, it may not be able to do so.

Singapore might have the capabilities to host the game as it is already preparing to host the smaller S.E. Asian games in 2015. Still, the Singapore government, famed world-wide, has already said that it is not interested in hosting such a big event on such short notice. Still, there’s always a chance the government could change its mind if no other host steps forward.

A country with an already built infrastructure could emerge as the front runner to host the event. With the deadline drawing near, many countries might balk at the costs and burden of building up stadiums and other facilities on such short notice.

For example, given China’s more well-developed infrastructure and previous experience hosting international games, they may be able to reuse previously built facilities to host the events. In a worst case scenario, South Korea, which will host the games this year, could also step forward to host the next games too.