China could face the might of Australia in the pool at future Asian Games after the Olympic Council of Asia said Sunday it was working towards letting Pacific states compete.
President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said the body was taking a “step-by-step” approach to admitting Oceania nations, starting first with Asia’s indoor games before considering the continent’s winter tournament.
“We are happy that Australia has asked to join,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “It would add value technically and financially.”
Australia is a major world force in swimming and other sports, where China currently dominates at the Games.
The Olympic chief said Oceania countries will be able to compete at the next indoor games, being held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in 2017 with a view to then thinking about the Asian Winter Games.
“Now I think we have an opportunity,” he told reporters in Incheon, on the second full day of competition at the 17th Asiad.
“We have a multi-sports events — indoor, winter, main. We can start giving Oceania (opportunities),” the Kuwaiti added.
“But we don’t want to go directly for everything. Let’s do it step-by-step. Indoor will be good. Then we will think more.”
The Asian Games in Incheon features around 9,500 athletes from 45 countries competing in 36 sports and runs until October 4.
China’s 400m and 1,500m Olympic and world swimming champion Sun Yang made his first appearance of this Asian Games on Sunday with the fastest times in the morning heats.