Asians are far from being the only major continental games with Olympic influence. Without going any further, in less than a month their Pan American equivalents will begin in Santiago, Chile.
However, for some time now they have become events that, in certain specialties, have unparalleled global significance.
The thing is that, since China’s return to the Olympic universe in Los Angeles 1984, Asian sport has not interrupted an evolution that can well be measured in medals.
After its irrelevant time in Helsinki 52 when none of its athletes had outstanding performances and especially since Barcelona 92, the Asian giant has achieved such a preponderance that no one would imagine an Olympic event without its athletes. The minimum 50 podiums achieved in that period and the extraordinary maximum of 100 in Beijing 2008 speak for themselves about their evolution.
But there’s more to it than that.
From Athens 2004 to the present day, a minimum of three Asian nations were among the top 10 in the medal table. And in Tokyo 2020, there were 25 nations from that continent with at least one podium win.
With places for Paris 2024 at stake and the presence of world and Olympic champions, the 19th edition of the Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8, the 19th edition of the Asian Games, which should have been held in September last year but had to be suspended due to a new wave of Covid-19 that affected the country.
The most important competition in the region will have 481 events and for hundreds of athletes it will be the possibility of getting a direct place for the next Olympic Games.
There will be nine sports that will deliver 74 tickets to Paris 2024: archery (6), artistic swimming (10), boxing (34), breaking (2), field hockey (2), modern pentathlon (10), sailing (6), tennis (2) and water polo (2).
No Russia or Belarus at the Hangzhou 2023 Asian Games
After not being able to participate in the European Games in Krakow, Russia and Belarus were hoping to be invited to Hangzhou 2023 and the door seemed to have opened last July when the General Assembly of the Asian Olympic Council (OCA) voted in favor of their participation.
Russians and Belarusians had to present themselves as neutral, in individual events and were not going to win medals, but they could have the opportunity to achieve the minimum marks necessary to be in Paris. However, the possibility never came to fruition.
“We don’t have any hope. The Games begin on September 23 and neither we nor the Belarusians have received the invitation,” Stanislav Pozdniakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee (COR), said a few days ago after the meeting of the COR sports commission. Russia assured that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to block that option.
The world figures that will be present at the Asian Games
Athletics will have several outstanding athletes and two have become world champions in Budapest in javelin throwing: Neeraj Chopra, gold medalist in Tokyo and the first Indian to win a world title, and Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi. Another outstanding figure will be Mutaz Essa Barshim, triple Olympic medalist and also champion in Tokyo in high jump.
The Chinese Hwang Sun-woo and Pan Zhanle will be two of the swimmers to follow, while Zou Jingyuan, Olympic champion in Tokyo 2020 in the parallel event, is one of the leading figures in artistic gymnastics, in which China will put its best representatives as it already has its place in Paris 2024 (the rest will bet on the World Cup that it will begin in Antwerp when the Asian Games end). Uzbek legend Oksana Chusovitina is also expected to attend.
Asians are great exponents in sports such as table tennis, badminton and diving, so a high level is expected in these competitions, while surely one of the most followed finals in Hangzhou 2023 will be cricket (most likely between India and Pakistan), which seeks its place in the Olympic program in Los Angeles 2028.