Asian Games may soon be challenging the Olympics’ standing as planet’s biggest sporting event, with Oceania and African nations keen to participate in the continental competition.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which organises Asiads, said Sunday 18 Oceania countries and federations, which include Australia, New Zealand and other smaller Pacific nations, will participate in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
The announcement that could open the door for sporting powerhouse Australia to integrate more into Asia by OCA’s influential head Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah was on expected lines.
But, it is a similar request by the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) that has come as a surprise and a big boost to the OCA. Interestingly, Sheikh Ahmad also heads the ANOCA and the move could help Asia have a bigger say in the Olympic movement dominated by Europe.
In an exclusive interview to HT, OCA secretary-general Randhir Singh said ANOCA had put in a request for participation in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, but “we have put it on hold for now. They will not compete in Ashgabat, but we will seriously consider them for future meets”.
African nations have for long wanted to go up against Asian athletes, and the inaugural Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad in 2003 offered them the opportunity. The Games, however, could not be sustained and the second edition at Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, was scrapped for want of funds.
The Asian Indoors in Ashgabat could be the precursor to Oceania countries becoming a part of the Asian Games, Singh said. “We will slowly try to integrate them and this is the first step,” he said.
“We hope it will be a new success story. We’re taking one step at a time,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “If successful, the second step could be the Asian Winter Games or Asian Beach Games, possibly leading to the Asian Games,” the Kuwaiti Sheikh said.