The Asian Games, also called the Asiad, are the world’s second largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. Regulated by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) under the supervision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Games are held every four years among athletes from all over Asia. As per a tradition started in 1951, medals are awarded in each event, with gold for first place, silver for second and bronze for third. National anthems and flags accompany the medal ceremonies, and tables showing the number of medals won by each country are widely used.
The Asian Games owes its origins to small Asian multi-sport competitions. The Far Eastern Championship Games were created to show unity and cooperation among three nations—the Empire of Japan, the Philippine Islands and the Republic of China. The first games were held in Manila in 1913. Soon other Asian nations also participated in the games. However, they were discontinued in 1938 after Japan invaded China.
Many of the new independent Asian countries after World War II wanted to use a new type of competition where Asian dominance should not be shown by violence and should be strengthened by mutual understanding. Accordingly, during the 14th Olympic Games in London in 1948, Indian IOC representative Guru Dutt Sondhi proposed to sports leaders of the Asian teams the idea of having discussions about holding the Asian Games. They agreed to form the Asian Athletic Federation and a preparatory committee was set up to draft the charter for the Asian amateur athletic federation.
In February 1949, the Asian athletic federation was formally formed and used the name Asian Games Federation. It was decided to hold the first Asian Games in 1951 in New Delhi, the capital of India. It was also decided that the Asian Games would be regularly held once every four years.
In 1962, the Federation had a disagreement over the inclusion of Republic of China and Israel. Asian Games host Indonesia opposed the participation of Republic of China (due to the existence of People’s Republic of China) and Israel. In 1970, South Korea dropped its plan to host the games due to security threats from North Korea, forcing previous host Thailand to administer the games in Bangkok using the funds of South Korea.
In 1973, the Federation had another disagreement after U.S. and other countries formally recognized the People’s Republic of China and Arab nations’ opposition to Israel. In 1977, when Pakistan dropped its plan to host the games due to conflicts with Bangladesh and India, Thailand offered to help and the games were held in Bangkok.
A new association, named Olympic Council of Asia, was created in November 1981 after the Asian nations decided to revise the Constitution of the Asian Games Federation. Since the timetable for the 1982 Games at New Delhi was already decided, OCA decided not to drop the old AGF timetable. OCA formally supervised the games starting from the 1986 Asian Games in South Korea.
In the succeeding games, Taiwan was readmitted but OCA decided to follow the standards of the IOC for Taiwan to use the name Chinese Taipei. The OCA also agreed to permanently exclude Israel as its member and requested that the country join European competitions.
Former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan were admitted by the OCA in the 1994 Asian Games, despite opposition from other nations. In 2006, Australia was refused entry by OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah, as it was considered that Australia’s move from Oceania to Asia would be unfair to the smaller Oceania states. In 2009, OCA changed the year from the Asian Games to one year ahead of the Olympic Games. Hence, after Incheon Asian Games in 2014, the next games will be in 2019.
Currently, there are 45 nations participating in Asian Games. They are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Japan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.
After the Asian Games at New Delhi in 1951, the second Games were hosted by Manila in 1954, third by Tokyo in 1958, fourth by Jakarta in 1962, fifth and sixth by Bangkok in 1966 and 1970 respectively, seventh by Tehran in 1974, eighth again by Bangkok in 1978, ninth again by New Delhi in 1982, tenth by Seoul in 1986, eleventh by Beijing in 1990, twelfth by Hiroshima in 1994, thirteenth again by Bangkok in 1998, fourteenth by Busan in 2002, and fifteenth by Doha in 2006. Japan led the medals tally at all the first eight games. However, since the ninth Asian Games, China has led the medals tally.
Aquatic sporting events which are held in the Asian Games are diving, swimming, synchronized swimming, and water polo. Other events are Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Board games, Bowling, Boxing, Canoeing, Cricket, Cue sports, Cycling, Dance sport, Dragon boat, Equestrian, Fencing, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Kabaddi, Karate, Modern pentathlon, Roller sports, Rowing, Rugby union, Sailing, Sepaktakraw, Shooting, Softball, Soft tennis, Squash, Table tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling and Wushu.
The competitors at the Asian Games are entered by a National Olympic Committee (NOC) to represent their country of citizenship. In general only recognised nations are represented, but a few non-sovereign countries are allowed to take part. The 2010 Asian Para Games will debut shortly after the conclusion of the 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou, China, using the same facilities and venue made disability-accessible. The inaugural Asian Para Games, the parallel event for athletes with physical disabilities, is a multi-sport event held every four years after every Asian Games.