The Olympic Council of Asia confirmed at its General Assembly in Bangkok earlier this month that athletes from 17 Oceania nations would be eligible to compete in sports which will serve as joint Asia-Oceania qualifying events for the Olympic Games.
PGC President Vidhya Lakhan was present at the assembly where the OCA President, Sheikh Ahmad, said the next Asiad in Hangzhou, China would expand the relationship between the two regions.
Pacific Games Council CEO Andrew Minogue said Oceania countries were invited to compete in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games two years ago so this was a logical next step.
“Some of our sports in Oceania their qualification pathway to the Olympic Games is now through Asia so in many senses it makes sense to have an Oceania contingent at those Games, if they're using it for qualification,” he said.
“But there's an awful lot of sports that still have its qualification pathway through Oceania and that's where we want the Pacific Games to be the priority and the Games that is given that standing [in the region] in terms of a qualification pathway.”
Oceania's participation in the Asian Games is set to be restricted to team sports which qualify through Asian competitions for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Andrew Minogue said they don't view the move as a threat to the future of the Pacific Games, which the Council wants to establish as a the pre-eminent Continental Games in Oceania.
“We're not afraid of this development, we're not feeling as though it's a danger to our region," he said.
“We just need probably now to coordinate a bit better through our relationship with the Oceania National Olympic Committees to make sure that the offer that's going to the Asian Games is not something that's all going to be replicated at a Pacific Games,” he said.
The 19th Asian Games will be held in September 2022, with about 10,000 athletes expected to compete across up to 40 sports.
Minogue said for the majority of Oceania's top athletes the event falls in what is already a very busy sporting year.
“Usually for us it's in the Commonwealth Games year so if that timetable and calendar doesn't change then the Pacific countries have already got a lot of commitments on in that particular year,” he said.
“The Youth Olympic Games are on that year as well and then our Games are on the year before the Olympics, so last year you had the Asian Games in Jakarta and this year it's the Pacific Games in Samoa.
“So it's not as though the two events are on at the same time. They're not really actually even very close to each other - they're close to 12 months apart - so there's no reason to think it's a negative thing.
“But I think we just need to do some more work through ONOC just to understand the concept a little bit better so that we continue to deliver the best sport programme for our members at the Games here.” he said.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS