MELBOURNE, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A small contingent of athletes from Oceania nations will be allowed to compete at the 2022 Asian Games in China so long as their qualification paths for the 2024 Paris Olympics go through Asia, the Australian Olympic Committee said on Thursday.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) will allow around 300 athletes and 150 support staff from Oceania nations to compete at the Hangzhou Games.
“I welcome today’s announcement ... of the invitation for Oceania athletes to participate in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in the sports for which their qualification for the next Summer Olympic Games (Paris 2024) is through Asia,” AOC president John Coates said in a statement.
“The international federations are currently determining their qualification rules for Tokyo 2020 and these will provide a guide as to all of the sports and NOCs for which qualification from Oceania will be through Asia for Paris 2024.”
The AOC’s statement came two days after the OCA’s powerful President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah said the Asian Games was already too big to accommodate Oceania athletes.
Coates, an IOC Vice President and of the world’s most influential sports administrators, has long pushed for Australia’s athletes to be included in the Asian Games to expose them to stiffer competition.
The nation’s athletes competed at the Asian Winter Games as “guests” in Sapporo earlier this year.
Coates said volleyball, soccer, basketball and equestrian were among the sports for which Olympic qualification for Australia would likely be through Asia.
“It is however unlikely that equestrian would take up this opportunity because quarantine rules generally require the horses to be quarantined for up to six months on return from China,” he added.
Next year’s version of the quadrennial Asian Games, which is second in size only to the Summer Olympics, takes place in Indonesia with the 2022 edition scheduled for Hangzhou, China.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury