Oceania can take part in 2022 Asiad

Australian Olympic chief John Coates speaks during the 131st International Olympic Committee session in Lima on Sept 13, 2017.
Australian Olympic chief John Coates speaks during the 131st International Olympic Committee session in Lima on Sept 13, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY • Athletes from Australia and the rest of Oceania have been invited to compete at the 2022 Asian Games, Australian Olympic chief John Coates said yesterday, days after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said such a move was unlikely.

The OCA's invitation to the Games in China's Hangzhou is only for selected sports, to enable Oceania athletes to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics through Asian competition, he added.

Oceania - Australia, New Zealand and a swathe of Pacific islands - has not taken part in the Asian Games before, but sporting ties with the region have been growing. Australia has been a member of the Asian Football Confederation since 2006, and Oceania nations are currently competing at the Asian Indoor Games and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.

Coates, who is also a member of the Association of Oceania NOCs (National Olympic Committees), said the decision on Hangzhou - which will follow Indonesia, host of next year's Games - was made by OCA president Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah.

The sheikh had said on Monday that the number of Asian Games athletes will be capped at 15,000, suggesting that Oceania would be unable to take part.

Coates said because of the 15,000 maximum, "the numbers from the NOCs of Oceania will be capped at around 300 athletes and 150 support staff".

"Volleyball, football, basketball and equestrian are among the sports for which Olympic qualification for Australia is likely to be through Asia," he said.

Coates said international federations are currently determining their qualification rules for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics "and these will provide a guide as to all of the sports and NOCs for which qualification from Oceania will be through Asia for Paris 2024".

Australia has 18 athletes currently competing in taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling at the Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

It is also the first OCA event to feature athletes from the Oceania region.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'Oceania can take part in 2022 Asiad'. Print Edition | Subscribe