Asian Games: Australia, NZ could be part of expanded Asiad in future

Incheon: The Olympic Council of Asia continues its bid to re-work various events and look out for new markets and opportunities.

At the OCA General Assembly, which finished on Saturday, it arrived at a landmark decision through which it has decided to invite 18 members of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) for the next Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMG) in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan in 2017.

This paves way for a future, which could see Oceania, which is already a part of the Asian Football Confederation since 2006, make an entry into an expanded Asian Games.

It means a total of 63 countries — 45 from Asia and 18 from Oceania — will compete together in the AIGM, which was last held in 2013, coincidentally in Incheon. The AIGM came into being when the Asian Indoor Games (incepted in 2005) and Asian Martial Games (held once in 2009) were merged in 2013.

The President of the OCA, HH Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait, who is also President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) said, "I think we have an opportunity."

New markets
Clearly, the OCA and the Sheikh are keen to explore new markets and Australia and New Zealand could even be potential hosts for OCA's numerous events in the future.

"Why not the Indoor Games as a first exercise? If it's successful, I think we can also jump to the winter sports, let us do it step by step. They have all those athletes in winter sports and they only have the Olympic Games, so maybe it will be the corridor for their preparations," he said.

Elaborating on further possibilities, he said, "Then we will think for further sports, maybe the (Asian) Beach Games because they have very interesting beaches."

Hoping for success
"We hope it will be a new success story." Australia had come into AFC in 2006 in a bid to get more competition and it has paid with qualification for last three FIFA World Cup.

In 2007, a proposal to bring Australia into the Asian Games in 2014 was mooted but OCA turned it down because it felt that would not be fair to other Oceania members.

Among other decisions, OCA shifted the 2018 Games to Jakarta from Hanoi, while the 2016 Beach Games to Nha Trang, a coastal city in Vietnam. The 2017 Asian Youth Games have been switched from Hambantota to Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

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