Newsmakers / January 2018

Ever Onward for 2018 Asian Games

By Yanto Soegiarto


Who doesn’t know Erick Thohir, the Indonesian media tycoon who owned Inter-Milan, DC United and Persib, one of Indonesia’s top football teams. Now the former investment banker is being entrusted by the government with the grueling task of organizing and managing the prestigious Asian Games 2018 to be held in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2. For Erick, it’s a call for duty. He has taken over the job from previous host organizer Vietnam, which backed off due to economic reasons. And he is now working at a fast pace to keep the schedule on track again after being behind schedule for almost a year. It’s not an easy job, especially as Erick is also responsible for fund-raising.

“We are back on track again. The Indonesian Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC) has finalized 40 branches of sports, 87 disciplines and 462 competitions which will be held in 64 venues in Jakarta and Palembang. The committee is on track. It’s a positive development,” Erick said during a year-end public expose. Skeptics have expressed concern over the completion of the venues for the games and the crucial issue of funding. Overall, the games needed a whopping Rp5.6 trillion while the government has only approved an overall budget of Rp4.5 trillion

But Erick is upbeat. He said that 98% of the budget allocated for expenditure during 2017 amounting to Rp2 trillion has been spent in a transparent and accountable manner by all departments and coordinators of the committee. “We finalized many issues in 2017. Completion of the venues is also convincing with active support from the Ministry of Public Works.” “The number of sponsors is also increasing. Until now, 12 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), 13 private companies and companies of the participating nations, including China, have signed contracts and cooperation (agreements). From the SOEs we have Rp350 billion in cash, Rp150 billion in goods and services. From the private sector we raised $80.5 million,” Erick said.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who witnessed a sponsorship signing event, commented. “Although costly, the Asian Games is important, as it will also bring positive impact on investment in the future.” In February 2018, the committee will hold trial events for nine branches of sports: weightlifting, taekwondo, boxing, pencak silat, athletics, football, basketball, volleyball and archery. The torch relay will cover a distance of 10,000 km. Other preparations for the opening of the games, in which 45 nations will participate, are also being finalized. The Indonesian Olympic Committee officially launched the Asian Games 2018 logo and mascots Bhin-bhin, Ika and Atung at the presidential palace. The logo and mascots were selected from 56 top designs in a competition held by the Creative Economic Agency, Bekraf. The final designs were approved by President Joko Widodo.

Meanwhile, the official theme song for the Asian Games 2018 is Bright as the Sun. The 2018 Asian Games logo’s theme is “Energy of Asia” — inspired by the roof design of the Gelora Bung Karno sport complex in Jakarta, the main venue of the 1963 Asian Games. The main stadium has been renovated thoroughly with its aging seats replaced with modern ones. The mascots meanwhile reflect Indonesia’s diversity, with eastern Indonesia being represented by the iconic Cendrawasih bird Bhin-bhin, western Indonesia by the one-horned rhino Ika and central Indonesia by the Bawean deer Atung. The government is banking on the Asian Games to boost tourism, with a plan to kick off a national branding strategy during the games. Erick was born on May 30, 1970 and the US-trained businessman is no stranger to sports. He became part of the consortium that bought the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011. Back home, he owns leading basketball team Satria Muda. In sports organizations, Erick holds positions at the Indonesian Basketball Association (2015–2019) and is president of the Southeast Asian Basketball Association. He was mission chief of the Indonesian contingent for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

In September 2013, Inter Milan chairman and owner Massimo Moratti sold  the top Italian club to Erick and his partners Handy Soetedjo and Rosan Roeslani. Erick was then appointed chairman of the board of directors of Inter Milan, replacing Moratti, who remained with the club as honorary chairman. However, in 2016 Erick sold part of the stake in Inter Milan to Suning Holdings Group, chaired by self-made Chinese billionaire Zhang Jindong. Erick founded Mahaka Group, a holding company focusing on media and entertainment. His father, the late Teddy Thohir, was co-owner of the giant Astra automotive company together with late founder William Soeryadjaya. His brother Garibaldi Thohir is an investment banker and entrepreneur who owns leading energy company Adaro.