INCHEON, South Korea: Asia’s Olympic boss on Sunday said niche events like kabaddi, sepak takraw and wushu would remain in the Asian Games despite pressure to reduce the number of sports.
Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said the three disciplines, little known outside the region, helped make the Asian Games distinct.
“We have to respect Asian tradition and Asian sport,” the Kuwaiti said in Incheon, South Korea, at the 17th Asiad.
“We cannot speak about South Asia without kabaddi, we cannot speak about Southeast Asia without sepak takraw, you cannot speak about East Asia without wushu.”
Kabaddi is an Indian wrestling-style sport, wushu is a Chinese martial art and sepak takraw is a form of Southeast Asian volleyball played with the feet.
They are three of the more unusual sports being contested over 15 days in Incheon.
Thirty-six disciplines are featuring, including the full Olympic programme plus more obscure pursuits like soft tennis.
“We cannot always comply to the Olympics,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “I believe 36 is a very good number. I believe we are keeping space and environment for the main sports in our continent.”
The OCA chief said that Asian Games exposure could even provide a platform for the disciplines to make the step up to the Olympics.
“Asia is the door,” he said.
Some 9,500 athletes are competing at the Asian Games, which run until October 4.
‘Different cultures’ causes sex harassment
Sheikh Ahmad also apologized over sexual harassment cases at the Asiad but said there must be an understanding of “different traditions” and highlighted the small number of incidents involved.
Sheikh Ahmad said that the body had acted quickly after a female volunteer accused an Iranian official of sexual harassment and allegations were made against a Palestinian footballer.
But he added: “To also be reasonable we need to understand the tradition and different cultures. We believe this kind of Games brings different cultures from all of Asia together.
“With different cultures, sometimes this creates a problem,” he added. “That kind of accident can happen.”
The Asiad has brought together more than 13,000 athletes and officials from 45 countries and territories from the Middle East to Japan in east Asia.
The OCA expelled Iran’s equipment manager Amereh Ahmad for verbal harassment and prosecutors are considering whether to press charges after the Palestinian was accused of groping a female worker in an athletes’ village laundry.
The alleged incidents took place a few days before Friday’s official opening and the organizing committee put up strongly worded signs in the Games village warning against harassment.
“From the beginning, the OCA refused this kind of behavior,” Sheikh Ahmad told a press conference.
He said a “strict resolution” had been taken, including suspending those involved and removing their accreditation. “It was good solution for everybody,” the Kuwaiti added.
“We apologize, we take action, we hope these kinds of accident bring more experience (for education),” he said.
“We speak of one or two cases out of thousands of participants,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “That’s 00000.1 percent.”
“At the end I hope this is not to be repeated,” he added, saying he hadn’t heard of any other cases.