Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has formally announced that his government will bid for the 2036 Olympic Games to be held in its still-to-be-built capital city, Nusantara.
Jokowi made the announcement in a broadcast statement on the Presidential Secretariat’s YouTube channel yesterday, at the close of the G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali. “On this occasion, I express Indonesia’s willingness and readiness to host the 2036 Olympics in the future capital of Nusantara,” Jokowi said in the statement, according to Tempo.
He also hailed the role of sport to unite humanity amid the crises that darkened Indonesia’s G-20 presidency this year, including the Russia-Ukraine war and growing tensions between China and the United States.
“As chair of the G-20 Summit, and together with other G-20 leaders, I underscored the importance of sports for health, and its power to unite the world, especially in the current global situation,” he added. “The success of the next Olympic and Paralympic Games will highlight the importance of preserving global neutrality in international sporting events and governing bodies.”
First announced in 2019, the city of Nusantara is being built in the province of East Kalimantan, some 1,300 kilometers away from Jakarta. The government hopes that the new city will replace Jakarta as Indonesia’s capital by 2024.
The Indonesian bid was welcomed by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach “Having seen a presentation of the Nusantara project and the progress already achieved,” he said. “I am deeply impressed by the vision of President Widodo to develop this city as a model for sustainable living, with a special emphasis on health and sport.”
If successful, Nusantara would become the first Southeast Asian city to host the Olympics, though it is not the first to bid for it: both Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur applied to host the 2008 summer Olympics. Among the other nations believed to be vying for the hosting rights in 2036 are Mexico, South Korea, Britain, Egypt, Germany, India, and Qatar.
This is not the first time that Jokowi’s administration has bid to host the Olympics. In late 2020, Indonesia prepared an unsuccessful bid to host the 2032 games in Jakarta, an event that was eventually won by Brisbane. As Jokowi told his cabinet at the time, the bid was intended to build on Indonesia’s successful hosting of the 2018 Asian Games, which “has improved our confidence and is an eye-opener for the world that Indonesia is capable of hosting international events.”
At the time of the Jakarta Olympic bid, I noted that its “prestige value and seeming defiance of economic rationality” bore a considerable resemblance to Jokowi’s $40 billion plan to construct a new capital city on the island of Borneo. It is therefore perhaps fitting that the new capital, since christened Nusantara, is the proposed host city of the 2036 games.
But given that construction on the new capital has barely begun, and the difficulties that the government is facing in attracting investment to Nusantara, any talk of hosting the Olympics would seem to be wildly premature. Whether the new city will be even complete by 2036, let alone whether it will be in a position to host a major international sporting event, remains very much open to question.
Still, the bid offers an interesting insight into the ambitions and outlook of Indonesia’s seventh president. In “Man of Contradictions,” his 2020 biography of Jokowi, Ben Bland wrote that the scope of the new capital project was a “testament to his whimsical nature and his disorganized governing style.”
The plan to use the world’s premier international sporting jamboree to showcase his achievement also reflects his penchant for prestige mega-projects – and his desire to leave a lasting imprint on Indonesia.