Kuwait: Asian sport has taken giant strides and the Beijing Olympics will be a watershed for the region as it moves down the path to superpower status, the head of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) believes.
According to him China is driving the rapid improvements in Asia’s sporting prowess and hauling the rest of the region up with it.
“From the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 to Athens in 2004 we have found there are a lot more champions from Asia,” Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who has been president of the OCA since 1991, told AFP in an interview.
“China are now second behind USA in the medal stakes and Japan and Korea are also vying for the same. In 2004 there were almost 30 National Olympic Councils from Asia that won medals which is an encouraging development.
“I think in Beijing in 2008 Asia will jump from its current situation to an advanced stage where an Asian nation may well top the medal table.”
That nation will be China, which is pulling out all the stops to excel on home territory next year, with the ultimate goal being to topple the United States.
The fact that China is so dominant in Asia is not a hindrance to other regional countries. Rather, it motivates them, said Sheikh Ahmad.
“Everyone knows that China is a sporting superpower. They have consistently managed a 30% of the Asian Games gold medal tally. This has a silent motivating effct on other nations, who also get aspirational and strive to achieve similar success”. The logic is that sometimes, psychologically, it is very difficult to beat the US athletes but if Asian countries see China doing it, it will encourage them.