Oceania nations to be allowed in Asian indoor meet
INCHEON, South Korea (AP) — Oceania countries like Australia and New Zealand will be allowed to participate in the next Asian Indoor Games after a nod from the general assembly of the Olympic Council of Asia, its president Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said on Sunday.
“We’ve allowed Pacific countries to participate at the indoor games,” Sheik Ahmad said about the 2017 event in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat, but added that there were no immediate plans to add those 18 countries to the existing 45 nations in the Asian Games.
However, he indicated that options remained open and he was not thinking too far ahead at the moment.
“I think we have an opportunity but let’s do it step-by-step. Indoor will be good. Then we will think more,” he said.
The possibility of Pacific countries joining Asian meets could mean more competition and a higher profile with a sporting power like Australia competing against powerhouse China.
Sheik Ahmad also said the cost of the Asian Games will be controlled to ease the pressure on the host city without affecting the number of disciplines.
“We’ll decrease the operation costs. But we have to work out a reasonable way without compromising too much because this is the ‘landmark’ of Asia and we should be realistic and realize the games also have to be related to the development of the city,” Sheik Ahmad said.
The OCA chief said that disciplines like kabaddi, sepak takraw and wushu are all important for their regions and integral to the games.
“We have to ensure a balance ... to keep budgets for these games because we have to give them the chance to show what they can give to the movement,” he added.
High costs came into focus after the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi cited lack of funds and in April backed out from holding the next Asian Games. The games were formally awarded to Indonesia on Saturday.
Indonesia, whose bid for Surabaya city for the 2019 games lost out to Hanoi in the final vote, will now host the games in 2018 as its presidential elections are scheduled for the following year.
The OCA had wanted to bring the Asian Games to the year before the 2020 Olympics but was left with no option but to revert to the original year of 2018 because of Indonesia’s request.
“Doha cost more than eight billion (dollars), Guangzhou was almost eight billion. In Incheon it is 2 billion. But then the games also leave things like sports facilities, hotels and transportation that are used and maintained later on,” Sheik Ahmad said.
Indonesian Olympic Committee’s chairwoman Rita Subowo said she too was looking at ways to keep the costs down and that a team from her country was in Incheon to work out the logistics.
“We have some 30 persons here at different venues and facilities studying the requirements,” Subowo said. “We organized the Asian Games a long time ago. We want to work on our venues ... we don’t want to leave a white elephant behind.”
Indonesia last hosted the games in 1962.