INCHEON (Reuters) – Australia has welcomed the idea of possibly competing at the Asian Games after Asian Olympic officials agreed to let Oceania nations join them in smaller multi-sports events.
While there are no firm plans as yet to allow Oceania countries to compete at the main Asian Games, which are second in size only to the Olympics, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has now opened the door.
The OCA general assembly, meeting on the sidelines of the 17th Asian Games in South Korea, voted over the weekend to allow Oceania countries to compete at the next Asian Indoor Games, to be held in 2017.
OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said the two regions were taking things slowly but the OCA had not ruled out the prospect of allowing Oceania nations to compete at bigger multi-sports events in Asia in the future.
“I think we have an opportunity,” said Sheikh Ahmad. “But we don’t want to go directly for everything.
“Let’s do it step-by-step. Indoor will be good. Then we will think more.”
The news was welcomed in Australia, which has long entertained the idea of forging closer ties with Asia to expose their athletes to stiffer competition from the likes of China, Japan and South Korea.
Australia sent a team to the 2001 East Asian Games in Osaka and in 2006, Australia’s national soccer body left Oceania to join the Asian Football Confederation, a move that has helped trigger unprecedented success and interest in the game Down Under.