Asian Winter Games: No winter athletes, no problem!

PHOTO: AFP

Tokyo - Asia's Olympic body on Monday appealed for all Asian countries - even tropical and desert ones with no winter sport athletes - to take part in the 2017 Asian Winter Games.

The Olympic Council of Asia has 45 National Olympic Councils under its wing and its vice-president said all should participate in next year's edition in Japan.

Hot and steamy Malaysia and Singapore field athletes for skating events while Kuwait, where summer temperatures regularly top a mercury-busting 45 deg C, has an ice hockey squad.

All three have competed in past Asian Winter Games. But a lack of athletes should not be a barrier, the OCA said.

"Even NOCs with no winter sports athletes are very welcome to the Asian Winter Games in order to prepare your athletes for future Winter Games," said Wei Jizhong, the organisation's vice-president, according to a press release.

"The OCA encourages all NOCs to try your best to send your athletes to the Sapporo Asian Winter Games," he said, speaking in the city on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido where the 2017 games will take place.

"The importance is not getting medals," he stressed. "The importance is participation, as is the motto of the International Olympic Committee."

The Sapporo Games are set for February 19-26 next year, with five sports and 11 disciplines such as cross-country skiing and figure skating.

Around 1,500 athletes and team officials from around 30 countries will take part in the Games, up from 430 in the inaugural edition in Sapporo in 1986.

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