Aus­tralia, Ocea­nia na­tions bid to join Asian Win­ter Games

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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.”

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