Australia, Oceania nations bid to join Asian Winter Games
ASIAN Olympic officials have tentatively agreed to a request from Australia to allow countries from Oceania to compete at next year’s Asian Winter Games in Japan, further strengthening ties between the two regions.
Under the proposal from the president of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates, athletes from Oceania nations would be allowed to enter selected events at the next Asian Winter Games, taking place in Sapporo from February 19 to 26.
If approved, representatives from Oceania would be regarded as “guest” athletes competing under the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) flag.
They will only be allowed to enter individual events and will not be eligible to win any medals.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the influential president of the OCA, has thrown his support behind the plan but said the final decision was up to the Sapporo organising committee.
“I hope that they will support this resolution,” Sheikh Ahmad told the OCA General Assembly yesterday. “It will be good for all the athletes.”
Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and other smaller Pacific nations, does not have its own winter games.
But Coates said the chance to compete against Asia’s top athletes would serve as an ideal preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics, taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“Australians compete at world championships but there’s no doubt it would be good to compete as an Australian team at multi-sports events,” Coates told AFP.
“There’s no doubt in some of the sports the Asians will be much stronger than us. I think the only sports where we will add to their competition will be aerial skiing, freestyle skiing and the moguls. The rest of ours will be just getting very good experience.”
Australia has been investing heavily in its winter sports program, winning medals at each of the last six Olympics, and has also been steadily forging closer sporting links with Asia.
Australia’s national soccer body ditched Oceania a decade ago to join the Asian Football Confederation, and won the Asian Cup for the first time last year.
In 2014, the OCA agreed to let Oceania compete at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, and has floated the idea that Oceania could eventually compete at the Asian Summer Games.
“There’s been some talks about it,” Coates told AFP. “In many cases, we’re already competing in Asia so it could happen but on the other hand, Australia is not leaving Oceania.”