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Figure skater Michael Martinez of the Philippines will be appearing in his second Winter Olympics here in Korea, following his Sochi 2014 debut.
OCA makes big contribution to growth of winter sports

09 Feb 2018
PyeongChang, Korea, February 9, 2018: As the International Olympic Committee prepares to welcome a record 92 countries and regions to the 23rd Olympic Winter Games, there is no doubt that Asia has played a big part in the promotion and development of winter sports. Around this time last year, the Olympic Council of Asia was staging its eighth Asian Winter Games at the winter sports hotbed of Sapporo in northern Japan, supported by Obihiro for the speed skating events.

A total of 32 National Olympic Committees competed in Sapporo last February, including two guest NOCs from Oceania, resulting in the participation of over 1,100 athletes. At the OCA’s inaugural AWG in 1986, also at Sapporo, there were only seven teams and 293 athletes. The growth of winter sports in Asia has been phenomenal, especially considering that several countries are tropical and have no snow or ice.

A lot of this can be put down to the fact that many cities have built ice rinks inside luxurious new shopping malls, allowing the citizens to not only escape the relentless heat and humidity but take up a new sport such as figure skating or ice hockey. On top of this, the NOCs and sports federations have tapped into their overseas talent, welcoming winter sports athletes who are studying or living in the likes of Canada or the USA.

This is particularly relevant to South East Asia, whose regional federation, decided to include ice sports in last year’s SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. As the Secretary of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, Dato’ Low Beng Choo, admitted earlier this week: “People thought we were crazy! After all, we think it’s cold in Malaysia if it’s 20 C.”

As it happens, Malaysia will be one of six NOCs making their Winter Olympics debut in Korea, with two athletes - in alpine skiing and figure skating. Singapore is another Winter Olympics debutant, in short track speed skating. It is no coincidence that the three athletes from these two SEA NOCs all competed at Sapporo 2017 against Asian winter sports powerhouses Japan, Korea, China and Kazakhstan.

The 92 countries and regions here in Korea include Asian representatives Timor-Leste, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Iran, India, Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Pakistan, Philippines, Hong Kong-China, DPR Korea and host Korea.

As the OCA’s Asian Winter Games continue to go from strength to strength, this is reflected in the growth of the Winter Olympics – and even bigger steps are expected in the build-up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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