Olympic Council of Asia: Oceania in Asian Games unlikely
Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), Sep 19 (AP) The hopes of Australia and other Oceania countries being allowed to compete in the Asian Games have been diminished by the head of the Olympic Council of Asia.
Speaking at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games which are continuing in Ashgabat, OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah said with the Asian Games already operating at full capacity, allowing nations from Oceania to join the event was "unlikely to happen."
Last year, Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said he was pursuing the idea of his country taking a full delegation of athletes to the 2022 Asian Games, set for Hangzhou, China.
"Discussions are under way and I believe there would be great interest in the Asian Games amongst our member sports," Coates said at the time. "Particularly in sports where the Asian countries are strong (such as) gymnastics, badminton and table tennis. I believe participating in the Asian Games would be very good for us."
But on Monday, Sheikh Ahmad said that while the OCA was keen to continue its current relationship with Oceania countries, centering on lower-level events, it was not likely to happen at the region's premier games.
"With the Asian Games we are already at 15,000 athletes and officials, and we cannot add to that number," he said. "In the Beach Games and Indoor Games we can continue to have our coordination and cooperation, but for the Asian Games the number is very high and we cannot have an Olympic Village with more than 15,000 people."
The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games involve 65 teams -- 45 from Asia, 19 from Oceania, plus an African Refugee Team. It's the first time Oceania countries are competing officially at an OCA multi-sport games.
Athletes from Australia and New Zealand took part in the Asian Winter Games in Japan in February, but only as guest athletes who were not eligible to win medals. Sheikh Ahmad said there was a minor chance of Oceania countries competing in some events at the Asian Games, but only if current qualifying conditions were altered.
The next Asian Games will be held in Indonesia in 2018