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September 22, 2017

Australia invited to first Asian Games in 2022


September 22, 2017

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 Thursday, days after the Olympic Council of Asia said such a move was unlikely.

The OCA’s invite to the Games in China’s Hangzhou is for selected sports only to enable regional athletes to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics through Asian competition, Coates said.

Oceania — Australia, New Zealand and a swathe of Pacific islands — has not taken part in the regional Olympics before, but sporting ties with Asia 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, said the decision on Hangzhou — the next but one Asian Games, after Indonesia hosts the tournament in 2018 — was made by OCA President Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah.

Sheikh Ahmad said on Monday that the number of Asian Games athletes was capped at 15,000, suggesting Australia and Oceania would be unable to take part — although exceptions could be made in some team sports.

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,” Coates said in a statement.However, it is unlikely that equestrian will take up the opportunity because rules generally require horses to be quarantined for up to six months on return from China.

Coates said international federations were 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, the first OCA event to feature athletes from the Oceania region.

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