BANGKOK • Oceania nations, including sporting powerhouse Australia, have been invited to compete in selected Olympic team events at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China for the first time.
The invitation to the quadrennial event is, however, limited to volleyball, beach volleyball, basketball, football and fencing, while excluding sports such as swimming and track cycling, which Australia would be expected to dominate.
The decision, which is the culmination of an Australian-led drive for stronger ties with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), came after the body met on Sunday.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, welcoming the move as a very positive outcome, said yesterday: "Australia is very grateful for this opportunity and there will be enormous interest from our Oceania neighbours.
"This is something I have been pursuing for more than 20 years. This has been quite a journey that will ultimately benefit athletes in this region."
Coates added that the number of Australian competitors would likely be contained, saying: "There's a cap of 10,000 athletes so there will need to be some decisions made along the way about which teams will compete."
While Oceanic countries have not taken part in the regional Olympics before, sporting ties with Asia have been growing.
Australia has been a member of the Asian Football Confederation since 2006, and previously took part in the East Asian Games in Osaka in 2001 and the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo.
Separately, cricket will also return to the Hangzhou Games, OCA honorary life vice-president Randhir Singh confirmed. Guangzhou 2010 and Incheon 2014 included both men and women's competitions, but the sport was omitted for Jakarta-Palembang 2018.
Singh, who has been appointed the chairman of the coordination committee for the Games, said he visited Hangzhou last month to see the venue options, but was still looking for bigger grounds.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) hopes it would be able to convince the Indian cricket board (BCCI) to send a team, with IOA secretary-general Rajeev Mehta revealing that it would send a letter of request.
The BCCI is the sport's most influential governing body but did not allow its cricket teams to participate in 2010 and 2014. While it then blamed a packed international schedule, the BCCI is also said to be reluctant to answer to the IOA.
With 35 sports and 10,000 athletes competing, the Games are second only to the Olympics as a global multi-sport event.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS