July 28, 2023
HANGZHOU – A record 12,527 athletes from across Asia will take part in the Asian Games in Hangzhou this year, the most in the competition’s history, organisers said on Thursday.
More than 600 of the athletes will come from the host China, and all 45 countries and regions that are members of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) will be participating in the games.
The previous Asian Games participation record was set in Palembang, Indonesia, in 2018, during the last Asiad, with some 11,300 taking part.
But the number this time could be even higher if some 500 athletes from Russia and Belarus chasing qualifications for the 2024 Olympic Games are allowed to participate as guests.
Russian and Belarussian athletes have been largely banned from international competition after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
But during a meeting of the OCA earlier this month, it was agreed that sports people from both countries can take part under a neutral flag, gaining points for international rankings to qualify for the Summer Olympics. They will not be allowed to win medals at the Asian Games.
Running from Sept 28 to Oct 8, the games will largely be hosted in historic Hangzhou city but will also feature other venues in five neighbouring cities including Shaoxing, Ningbo and Jinhua.
“We are confident that we will deliver a uniquely Chinese, spectacularly Asian, Hangzhou Games,” said Asian Games official Zhu Qinan during a press briefing.
The sporting event had been postponed from 2022 because of China’s strict Covid-19 restrictions, which until late 2022 required lengthy periods of quarantine for foreign visitors.
The February 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing were held within a special “bubble”, with athletes and participants – including staff, volunteers and journalists – kept away from the general public.
Spectators were specially transported in by bus and had to undergo stringent testing before being allowed to enter the venues.