HO CHI MINH CITY -- Providing it can rustle up the finance, Ho Chi Minh City may host the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in 2021 some 18 years after Vietnam first hosted the biennial regional sports event in Hanoi in 2003.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung appointed various ministries to work on the biggest sports event in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and to make the most of the opportunity for Vietnam "to improve its social infrastructure and develop sports".
Vietnam's announcement was made the day the 28th SEA Games in Singapore closed. ASEAN members rotate the biennial event; Malaysia will host in 2017 and Brunei in 2019.
The Ho Chi Minh event is by no means certain, however. In April 2014, Vietnam announced it would not be hosting the quadrennial Asian Games, ASIAD 18, in Hanoi in 2019. The withdrawal was made partly because of Vietnam's inexperience with an Asia-wide sports event, but mainly for financial reasons.
"The country's socio-economic situation remains in difficulties due to [...] the global economic recession," the government said in its explanation. Vietnam had been proposing to spend $150 million on ASIAD 18.
Vietnam hosted the SEA Games in Hanoi at a cost of around $250 million, and many of the facilities prepared then remain available. The choice of Ho Chi Minh City, with a proposed budget of $100 million, would be an opportunity for the economy in the south to modernize facilities and develop as a sports hub.
However, analysts estimate costs of at least $250 million to host the games in Ho Chi Minh City. The swimming facilities alone would sink $30 million, and a main stadium around $70million. It is clear the government would not be able to take this on without significant private sector support.