AUSTRALIA and New Zealand’s hopes of competing at future Asian Games have been dashed by the head of the Olympic Council of Asia.
The nations had hoped to compete at the Asian Games from 2022.
Athletes from both countries competed a the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, as guests earlier this year – and Australia said talks were being held over joining the summer Games.
Also, 19 Oceania nations are represented for the first time at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, which run in Turkmenistan until September 27.
But OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah said the Asian Games itself is already too big.
He told a news conference in Ashgabat, where the Indoor Games are being held, that Oceania has a future in the Beach and Indoor Games – but not the flagship Asian Games.
“I hope at the next Indoor Games we will have the same experience and Oceania will continue with us in the Indoor Games,” he said.
“With the Asian Games we are already at 15,000 athletes and officials and we cannot add to that number.
“In the Beach Games and Indoor Games we can continue to have our coordination and cooperation, but for the Asian Games the number is very high and we cannot have an Olympic Village with more than 15,000 people.”
Next year’s Asian Games – which is second in size only to the Summer Olympics – is being staged in Jakarta and Palembang, with the 2022 edition scheduled for Hangzhou, China.
Australia has long been keen to forge closer links with Asian sport – with the aim of exposing their athletes to a higher level of competition.
In 2006, Australia’s national football association ditched Oceania to join the Asian Football Confederation – but the country’s path to the Asian Games remains blocked.
Australia had the backing of China – who want tougher opposition for their swimmers – but not Sheikh Ahmad.
Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates, an influential member of the International Olympic Committee himself, said in Sapporo earlier this year that joining the Asian Games would be “very good” for Australia.
“Discussions are underway and I believe there would be great interest in the Asian Games amongst our member sports,” he said at the time.
“Particularly in sports where the Asian countries are strong such as gymnastics, badminton and table tennis.”