Australia to compete at Asian Indoor Games
1 December 2014
GAMES: Australia and New Zealand will send athletes to the next Asian Indoor Games in 2017, following an accord with the Olympic Council of Asia.
The accord, hailed as "historic" by OCA president Sheikh Ahmad
Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, is the first step toward Australia and the Pacific nations
taking part in the full Asian Games within a decade.
The 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are to be held in the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat. The dates are not yet confirmed however previous editions were held in April/May. There are 18 sports on the program with eight of them being Olympic sports - Athletics, Basketball, Cycling (Track), Swimming, Taekwondo, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling.
The Central Asian state is spending $5 billion on an "Olympic Village" for all the venues.
Sheikh Ahmad predicted there would about 1,000 Pacific athletes among up to 6,000 competitors at the Ashgabat games.
"This will be historic," said the sheikh, one of the leading figures in world sport at the ceremony. "This will be a first chance for cooperation between the two continents. Oceania has many champions."
Sheikh Ahmad said the presence of Australian and other Pacific champions could boost the performance of Asian athletes.
"We have to see how we can maximise our opportunities for our athletes," said Robin Mitchell, head of the Oceania National Olympic Committees group who agreed with the estimated numbers at the event.
Pressure on the OCA to let in Australia and New Zealand has increased since they were let into the Asian Football Confederation.
Many Asian sports leaders have however been traditionally wary of letting in what they consider to be "outsiders" who could dominate Asian events.
But supporters such as the sheikh have highlighted the added economic benefits for the Asian Games as well as the increased sporting prestige to be brought by top Pacific athletes.
Sheikh Ahmad said there would only be a gradual move toward Australia taking part in the Asian Games, already one of the world's biggest sporting events with almost 10,000 athletes from 45 nations taking part in the South Korean city of Incheon this year.
AOC President John Coates is very pleased that discussions have come to fruition and he congratulated Mitchell and Rick Blas for their work to get this significant development for Oceania athletes.
Australia participated in the East Asian Games in 2001 but were not invited to participate again in multi-sport events in Asia until now.
AFP and AOC