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OCA PRESS RELEASE: Asia's Winter Sports Surge Starts in Sapporo

13 Feb 2017
Kuwait, February 13, 2017: The President of the Olympic Council of Asia, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, believes this month’s Asian Winter Games in Japan will signal the start of an unprecedented growth in winter sports throughout the continent. The OCA’s 8th AWG will open in Sapporo on Sunday, February 19, and run through to Sunday, February 26.

There will be five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events, and 31 National Olympic Committees are expected to take part. “The Sapporo Asian Winter Games will be a very exciting and significant event for the whole of Asia,” Sheikh Ahmad said.

“They will take place just one year before the next Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, in February 2018 so will provide the perfect stepping stone and preparation for athletes, coaches and team officials alike. “The 2022 Winter Olympics will also be held in Asia – in Beijing, which will become the first city to host the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

“China is expecting to introduce 300 million people to winter sports during this period, so the next few years are pivotal in establishing a vast, new winter sports scene outside of the traditional markets of North America and Europe.”

Sheikh Ahmad also believes the participation of athletes from Australia and New Zealand in the Sapporo Asian Winter Games further strengthens the unity and solidarity of the Olympic Movement. 

At the request of the Australian Olympic Committee, the OCA and Sapporo 2017 organising committee SAWGOC agreed to allow athletes from these two Oceania Confederation NOCs to join the Asian Winter Games as guest athletes in individual sports only. 

They will not be eligible to win medals, but will gain experience for the challenges ahead by competing against world-class winter sports athletes from Japan, China, Korea and Kazakhstan, among others, in world-class winter sports venues.

“The OCA and Sapporo organisers are delighted to welcome the guest athletes from Australia and New Zealand,” added Sheikh Ahmad. “Their participation will add value to the Games and further expand the footprint of Asia, not only in terms of winter sports competition but also for friendship, peace and understanding. All parties will benefit from their presence.” 

This will be the fourth Asian Winter Games hosted by Japan, following the first two editions in Sapporo in 1986 and 1990 and Aomori in 2003, and the OCA is confident the 1972 Winter Olympics host city will organise a smooth and successful Winter Asiad. “We will be using several of the venues from Sapporo 1972, and their legacy lives strong among the winter sports enthusiasts of Sapporo, Hokkaido and Japan,” said Sheikh Ahmad.

“The OCA’s 8th Asian Winter Games will add to this legacy, and further cement Sapporo’s reputation as a top-class winter sports hub in Japan, Asia and the world.” The sports will be staged in 12 venues, with 11 in Sapporo and the speed skating at Obihiro, 200km from the host city.
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