Sapporo, Japan, February 26, 2017: The Honorary Life Vice President of the Olympic Council of Asia, Mr Wei Jizhong, said he needed only two words to describe the success of the 8th Asian Winter Games: “General satisfaction.”
Speaking at a press conference at the Main Media Centre on Sunday morning, Mr Wei said the Games had received high marks from athletes, National Olympic Committees, Technical Delegates, International Sport Federations and from the OCA President, HE Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah.
Mr Wei said the presence of His Imperial Highness, Crown Prince Naruhito, at the opening ceremony on February 19 had set the tone for the Games.
“He met with the OCA Executive Board members and with members of the International Olympic Committee and had very cordial talks with everyone,” said Mr Wei.
“That means that his attendance at the Sapporo Asian Winter Games, a country from high to low pays big attention to sport. His presence is echoed by the people. This will promote and strengthen sports development in Japan.”
The press conference was held jointly by the OCA and organising committee SAWGOC and took place on the morning of the last day, ahead of the closing ceremony in the evening.
It has been the biggest Asian Winter Games in OCA history, with 1,200 athletes from 32 National Olympic Committees, and the biggest in terms of the sports programme, with five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events.
Mr Wei said he had spoken to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Rene Fasel, during the Games, and he was very happy to see that 18 teams were competing in a three-tier men’s tournament.
“At least 60 per cent of those participating NOCs are in a warm area like Macau, Hong Kong and Qatar, who have ice hockey athletes,” said Mr Wei.
Another example was the Technical Delegate of the International Ski Federation (FIS), who told Mr Wei he was surprised to see that the number of Asian skiers had increased. “They came for the competition, not for medals,” said Mr Wei.
Elsewhere, the women’s figure skating competition had included an athlete from the United Arab Emirates, Zahra Lari, added Mr Wei, pleasing the International Skating Union.
The OCA congratulated the organising committee on selling 70,000 tickets up until Saturday, with one full day of competition remaining. “The Sapporo people like the Games, support the Games and attend the Games,” he said.
Mr Wei said Sapporo 2017 would leave two legacies – a new generation of sports event managers trained to help the organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the promotion of sport in Japan and Asia.
Referring to the enthusiasm of the spectators, Mr Wei pointed out that an Indian couple in the Ice Dance, Aldrin Mathew and Anup Kumar Yama, were given a rapturous ovation, despite scoring only 31.28 points. “The spectators threw flowers on to the ice, no matter where the athletes were from or whether the level was high or low. We have to give big appreciation to the spectators,” added Mr Wei.
The Chairman of the OCA Medical and Anti-Doping Commission, Dr Mani Jegathesan, described the level and efficiency of services as “excellent”.
He explained there had been more than 300 medical encounters, with around 200 injuries to athletes in the field, while 200 doping tests had been carried out – one-sixth of the total number of athletes.
So far, half the results have come back from the WADA-accredited lab in Tokyo, and all are negative.
The Mayor of Sapporo and President of SAWGOC, Mr Katsuhiro Akimoto, pointed out that the first Asian Winter Games had been held in Sapporo in March 1986 with only seven teams but, due to economic growth and the construction of winter sports facilities in West Asia and South East Asia, the 8th Asian Winter Games “came back as a fully matured event” with 2,000 athletes and officials from 32 teams.
The four days of speed skating at Obihiro had produced a record attendance of more than 10,000, while five NOCs had competed for the first time along with guest athletes from Australia and New Zealand. “This is a new chapter in the history of the Asian Winter Games,” said the Sapporo Mayor.
He said the citizens had embraced the event, preparing hot soup at venues, while school children had produced flags and posters and 2,000 elementary school students had attended events. The volunteers, known as “Smile Supporters” had totalled 4,500, he added.
“This was a great accomplishment for Sapporo and Hokkaido,” he concluded.
In answer to a question regarding the next host of the Asian Winter Games, Mr Wei replied that the OCA had not yet decided, but that an “invited bid” by the OCA was already in process. Earlier in the week, the OCA President said one Chinese city was interested to host the ninth edition.
As for the participation of Oceania nations in the next AWG, Mr Wei said “sure – in the future” when asked if Australia would be invited to compete again.
Caption: From left: OCA Media Committee Chairman Charles Lo, OCA Medical and Anti-Doping Commission Chairman Dr Mani Jegathesan, Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto, OCA Hon. Life Vice President Wei Jizhong and SAWGOC Secretary-General Noriaki Ikushima.