However, at the beginning of July 2019, the city was again in the limelight because it held the prestigious world championship Motocross Grand Prix (MXGP), on July 6 and 7.
A number of world racers involved in the motocross series, such as Tim Gajser, this 2016 MXGP world champion had heard of Palembang. "This is indeed my first time to Palembang, but I already know this city because there has been an Asian Games here," Gajser said.
Maintaining the existence of a city that organizes international sports events was not an easy thing after the Asian Games ended.
The role of the regional head is very decisive as stated by the Chairman of the Indonesian Motorbike Association Sadikin Aksa. "Why should this MXGP series be held in Palembang? One reason is that the governor wants it to be here," Aksa said.
The World Motorcycle Racing Federation (FIM) has determined that Indonesia is to be the host of two MXGP series since 2017, Aksa said.
Two years ago, Pangkal Pinang City, Bangka Belitung Province and Semarang, Central Java Province were trusted. Then in 2018, the city of Palembang and Semarang were chosen. However, because Palembang hosted the Asian Games which was close to the MXGP series, it was transferred back to Pangkal Pinang.
Apparently, when it was held in Pangkal Pinang in 2018 there were logistical issues with transportation due to the limited flight schedule and the difficulty of the ship to dock because of the shallow sea.
Because of that, Youthstream that had been authorised by the FIM to act on their behalf, decided to delete Pangkal Pinang from the 2019 race calendar, while Semarang was still retained.
In this condition, IMI finally offered the South Sumatra Provincial Government the opportunity to host the 1st MXGP series, and received a positive response.
After the survey and the ability of the South Sumatra Provincial Government to offer a fee commitment, the city was finally entrusted with hosting the MXGP series for the first time. The official announcement was made by the IMI management and the Governor of South Sumatra in Palembang, May 27, 2019.
After being officially appointed, practical preparation was forced to speed up. The main focus at that time was how to build an international standard motocross circuit.
Initially, the provincial government plotted the location inside the Jakabaring Sport City Sports Complex, but the work could not continue because the land in the area was still unstable. If forced, the construction will take a relatively long time.
Now, the circuit has been constructed virtually on the Wydham Hotel page, just a few meters from the five-star hotel lobby. This hotel is in the OPI Mall complex which is also in the Jakabaring area, a few hundred meters from JSC.
The making of a 2-hectare clay circuit was then accelerated within three weeks in the company of a number of technicians from Greece. The circuit was built with a track length of 1.5 kilometers (km), which was shorter than the 1.9 km originally planned.
Although different from the original plan, it turns out this is where the OPI Mal circuit is unique. Some racers actually call this circuit the best in the world.
Gajser, who won the series in Palembang, said that he had just seen a circuit that was right in front of the hotel where he stayed. He did not need to linger around at the location of the event, because the circuit was in the suburbs.
"It is something new and special for everyone. You finish the race and go straight to the pool, or hotel room. So this is very good, " the HRC Honda racer said.
He also expressed his admiration for the Palembang circuit, which presented extraordinary challenges for the motocrosser.
The trajectory is shorter so that the earth mounds are made rather tight, and there are numerous bends. This condition forces the racer to use his brain to find the best jump.
As a result, the Gajser Team had to accept the fact that he fell during race 2. As a result, he failed to be the fastest as in race 1.
"Actually I prefer a long track, so I can also drive my motorbike and get energy. But there are a lot of twists, so it is also a challenge for me to change my style a little," he said.
As many as 40 world motocrossers took part in the MXGP and MX2 event in Palembang, which was witnessed by millions around the world because it was telecast live. It was also on the MXGP.com website. Nearly 30,000 people watched this race by the end of last week, according to reports.
The South Sumatra Provincial Government has stated its desire to become a permanent host for the MXGP Motocross Grand Prix series in the coming years after successfully organizing the event in 2019.
Expert Staff in the Field of Sports, Irwansyah said, the Governor of South Sumatra, Herman Deru had stated his readiness to host in 2020 and in the following years to the implementing authorities of the MXGP. "The Provincial Government has declared this to Youthstream, and hopefully, it will be approved," he said.
Deru said South Sumatra was interested in becoming a permanent host because they wanted to maintain the continuity of Palembang City as a sports destination city because in 2018 it had hosted the 2018 Asian Games.
The World Championship Series is expected to boost the regional economic growth after slowing down after the Asian Games concluded.
Head of the Southern Sumatra Regional VII Financial Services Authority, Panca Hadi Suryanto said, if you expect a good performance in 2019, South Sumatra still has economic triggers such as sports events, although not as big as the Asian Games.