Oceania Athletes Invited to Hangzhou Asian Games

(ATR) Australian and New Zealand athletes will compete for medals at the 2022 Asian Games.

(ATR) Athletes from Oceania will be able to compete at the 2022 Asian Games in a limited number of sports.

The Olympic Council of Asia voted to allow athletes from the 17 Oceania National Olympic Committees to the next Asian Games at its general assembly in Bangkok, Thailand. Sports includebasketball, beach volleyball, basketball fencing, football, and volleyball.

Athletes from Oceania competed in medal events at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, for the first time. At the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, athletes from Oceania were able to compete, but ineligible to win medals.

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates said in a statement that the decision was "quite a journey that ultimately will benefit athletes in this region".

"Australia is very grateful for this opportunity which was confirmed this weekend and there will be enormous interest from our Oceania neighbors," Coates said. "This is something I have been pursuing for more than 20 years."

A cap on the number of athletes competing in the Asian Games means Australia’s team will likely be "contained," according to the AOC. Without sports like athletics and swimming, Australia was unlikely to send its strongest possible delegation to Hangzhou.

However, it now means Paris 2024 qualifying for some sports is extended to the region through the Asian Games.

Both Australia and New Zealand are members of the Oceania National Olympic Committees umbrella group, but neither participates in the regional Pacific Games. That leaves both countries without high-level continental Games for their athletes n the middle of Olympic cycles.

Australia’s football federation joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006 leaving the Oceania Football Confederation to accelerate development. The country has qualified for every World Cup since.

"There will need to be some decisions made along the way about which Australian men’s and women’s team will compete, but the critical thing is our place is confirmed for Hangzhou 2022 and that’s a very positive outcome for us," Coates added.

The OCA also voted to return cricket to the Asian Games sport program for Hangzhou 2022.

Cricket featured at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, but was left out of the event in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia in 2018. The International Cricket Council has Olympic ambitions, although the next opportunity will be at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where the sport will have to compete with baseball/softball for a spot.

Hangzhou 2022 is expected to feature the 28 core sports from the Summer Olympics as part of its program. A total of 40 sports will feature at the Games, and organizers say they are seeking a cap of 10,000 athletes.

In Jakarta-Palembang, 11,270 athletes competed in 40 sports, making the event larger than the Summer Olympic Games.

Written by Aaron Bauer

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