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Asia's global sporting influence highlighted

By BAO DAOZU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-10-09 07:36
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The Hangzhou Games' 40 sports outnumbered those for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 by six, and 142 more gold medals were to be won in Hangzhou than in Tokyo three years ago.

The rising number of medal events and the ever-growing scale of the Asian Games have even triggered controversy among noted sports figures.

Wei Jizhong, OCA honorary life vice-president, said the late Juan Antonio Samaranch, former IOC president, once criticized him for introducing too many sports for the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.

"I told Samaranch that we wanted all Asian athletes to have the chance to get together, but not just for competition. The results are important, but they are not everything," Wei said.

Such tradition has been a feature of the Asian Games for decades.

At the 1974 Games in Teheran, Iran, fencing, gymnastics and women's basketball made their debut. Four years later, in Bangkok, archery and bowling were contested at the Games for the first time.

In Beijing in 1990, more than 6,000 athletes from 37 NOCs took part in the Games, as softball, sepak takraw, wushu, kabbadi and canoeing made their first appearances at an Asiad.

Wei, who headed the International Volleyball Federation from 2008 to 2012, said: "We are open to everyone. The Asian Games are not only for elite sportspeople.

"We found a way to add sports, especially regional ones, to give more athletes the chance of winning a medal. More than 80 percent of Asian NOCs boast medal winners.

"When athletes from developing countries win medals, their people are happy, their government is happy, and sport is supported. Sport has a high social position, so I think this policy of the OCA has been successful."

Singh, the acting OCA president, said, "The Asian Games are also a time to embrace our culture, our heritage, and to promote everything great about our continent."

He said it is important for the Games to attract young people with the addition of new, action-packed events that appeal to this audience, such as breaking (break dancing) and esports, which were both included in the Hangzhou Games.

"For young people, the Asian Games showcase the Olympic values of teamwork, dedication, respect and friendship. They let people unite to feel the value and thrill of competition and cooperation."

Zhou Jinqiang, a vice-minister of the General Administration of Sport of China, said: "The addition of new sports such as breaking and esports is welcomed by the younger generation. The sports at the Asian Games have strong Olympic elements and are a great opportunity for Asian countries and regions to display their cultures and traditions. The variety of sports at the Games is the best testimony to the inclusiveness and diversity of Asian sports culture."

Asia's regional sports are always a major attraction at the Games.

For example, kabaddi, one of the oldest sports in the world, with a 4,000-year history, was included in the main program at Hangzhou. A fast, furious and physical sport, kabaddi competitions are always great spectacles.

Another good example is sepak takraw. The sport, which has a vibrant history, is immensely popular in Southeast Asia. In 1990, sepak takraw was included in the Asian Games in Beijing. Since then, it has grown not only as a sport, but also in commercial and entertainment value.

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