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From left, OCA Hon. Life Vice President Wei Jizhong, Sheikh Ahmad and SAWGOC Director General Hiroshi Abe at the press conference.
OCA President: Asia is ready to host a third consecutive Winter Olympics

21 Feb 2017
Sapporo, Japan, February 21, 2017: The President of the Olympic Council of Asia, HE Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, believes that Asia is ready to stage a third consecutive Winter Olympics, should Sapporo decide to commit to an official bid for the 2026 edition.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Sheikh Ahmad said Sapporo had “all the tools, all the facilities and all the experience” to organise the Winter Olympics for a second time, following the city’s hosting of the 1972 Winter Games. “I am happy to hear that Sapporo is ready to host the Olympic Winter Games. Sapporo is capable and ready,” Sheikh said.

The next two Winter Olympics will be held in Asia – at PyeongChang, Korea, next February and Beijing, China, in 2022, and Sheikh Ahmad said one of the key factors for Sapporo would be how many cities showed a firm interest to host the 2026 Winter Games. “I am happy and proud because, after Beijing, Asia will be ready to host the Olympic Winter Games again. 

“If there is a lot who bid, we will have to evaluate the situation, but if not then we have a good chance. We are ready to host a third Olympic Winter Games.” Sheikh Ahmad said Sapporo held “special memories” for the OCA, having played a pioneering role in establishing the Asian Winter Games in 1986 and now hosting the event for the third time in eight editions.

That first AWG attracted only seven teams, but that figure has grown to 32 for Sapporo 2017, including guest teams from Australia and New Zealand. “A lot of the Olympic champions have started in the Asian Winter Games, and we wish our athletes from Sapporo 2017 can win a medal at PyeongChang 2018,” he said.

“We have seen our athletes win medals at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 2016 and now we find their names in our Asian Winter Games. This is what we are trying to do – to prepare a good environment to show their talent.”

The growth of the Asian Winter Games has brought ice hockey teams from the tropical South East Asia zone playing each other, for example Malaysia v Indonesia, from the desert – Qatar v the Independent Olympic Athletes representing the suspended Kuwait Olympic Committee – and a women’s team from Qatar in the curling.
“Before, this was like a dream,” he said. “The culture of the Games has changed in Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad reserved special praise for the people of Sapporo, commenting jokingly that “the citizens are supporting the Games more than the officials”.

After being informed that 30,000 people had attended the opening ceremony on February 19 and that a total of 40,000 people had attended the first three days of competition across the venues in Sapporo and Obihiro, Sheikh Ahmad picked out one special moment that had impressed him.

“Before the third part of the opening ceremony, the announcer asked the spectators not to take photos or record the singers on video. When this part started I was looking around, not at the beautiful performance but at the spectators – and I did not see one flash from 30,000 people! We have to respect this society – this is the fortune of Sapporo and this is why it is special.” 

Sheikh Ahmad also spoke of next year’s Asian Games in Indonesia, and described OCA sports events as a testing ground for the world, with the five new Olympic sports for Tokyo 2020 all joining the Asian Games programme. 

The Asian Youth Games in Singapore in 2009 and Nanjing in 2013 had also been dress rehearsals for the IOC’s YOG the following year in both cities, while the OCA’s Asian Beach Games concept beginning in 2008 had led to beach sports festivals in Latin America, Africa, the Mediterranean and even the first World Beach Games set for San Diego 2019 and run by the Association of National Olympic Committees.

The OCA’s five multi-sport events – Asian Games, Asian Winter Games, Asian Beach Games, Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and Asian Youth Games – provided a menu for National Olympics Committees of all sizes to consider hosting an event, while offering different advantages such as tourism and development, he added.

“These five Games include between 85-89 different sports for the athletes to represent their flag,” Sheikh Ahmad concluded. The host of the next Asian Winter Games has not been finalised, but he said one Chinese city had shown strong interest. Sheikh Ahmad hopes to conclude the deal in time for the General Assembly at Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, this September. "We are in a stable situation, a secure zone," he said.
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