Asia is becoming an increasingly popular sporting destination, and although it has had many high profile events for several decades, it is an ever-growing business that is currently going from strength to strength.
There are many sporting events that take place in Asia with competitors that come from all over the world, and of course there are far too many examples to list in one place, so in this article we have focused on games that are for Asian countries to compete with one another, and primarily games held by the most prestigious organisation: the Olympic Council of Asia, OCA.
These events fall into various categories, below we discuss: the Asian Games, the Asian Beach Games, the Asian Winter Games and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. These are all spectator sports, so if you happen to be in the area during competition season, we highly recommend you get a ticket, as events in all of these series are a riveting and inspiring experience, plus with such a range of disciplines to choose from, you are bound to find something that piques your interest.
The Asian Games
The Asian Games is the second biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games, and is the oldest and most esteemed of any games run by the OCA. The first games were held in New Delhi in 1951. Today 45 nations take part in a two week series of events, the next of which will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2018. These games are very much like the Olympics in terms of the sports that are played, with a central focus on athletics and swimming. However, with over 40 disciplines, there are some differing and unique sports that you certainly won’t find at the Olympics.
Sepak takraw, originating to Southeast Asia, is a sport similar to kick volleyball, except for its use of a rattan ball (akin to a ball of twine), and for the players’ strict limitation to use of head, feet, knees and chest to touch the ball. Kabaddi, originating in India, is a contact sport in which, to put it simply, two teams occupy half of the pitch, and must try to infiltrate the other team’s side. Wushu, originating in East Asia, is a full contact sport that evolved from efforts to standardise the many practises of Chinese martial arts; it is both physically punishing and a form of exhibitionism, making it quite thrilling to watch.
Asian Beach Games
The Asian Beach Games are a new addition to the OCA’s calendar, starting in 2008, with an event every two years, making this year’s edition, taking place in Denang in September and October, the fifth series. Despite their newness these games are already incredibly popular for a number of reasons. For one, they are much cheaper to organise in comparison to other games, thanks to the natural resources such as sand, which is in abundance in Asia. In addition, the sunny outdoors aspect draws plenty of spectators and tourists, who come to see disciplines they can’t necessarily see at home.
The host city of Nha Trang is a popular tourist destination, as was the host for the last games in 2014, which were held in Phuket, Thailand. There are a wide variety of games and sports that are played at this event, and with 45 countries participating, there is a lot going on. In Phuket, 2,297 athletes competed in 60 different disciplines over 10 days!
Disciplines include more globally well-known sports such as beach volleyball, beach football and water polo, but also offer some more unique disciplines, giving spectators an inclusive and thoroughly international experience. For example, in Phuket, athletes competed in kurash; a type of wrestling that evolved from Turkish folk wrestling practices. In Haiyang in 2012, dragon boat racing was on the schedule; teams race in colourful boats that are decorated with ornate dragon’s heads, the boats are powered by large paddles, which the athletes must use in sync with one another, much like rowing, only far prettier. These games also featured beach kabaddi and beach sepak takraw.
Asian Winter Games
The Asian Winter Games are a series of events that combine the more traditional winter sports and the more extreme, with athletes competing in sixteen disciplines, including curling, ice hockey, biathlon, figure skating, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
The rise in the popularity of these sports can be attributed to many factors; primarily the growth in travel, particularly students from Asian countries studying in countries where these sports are more commonplace, such as the USA and Europe, and the increase in indoor venues. The 2011 games were hosted in Astana and Almaty, Kazakhstan, providing both incredible indoor courses (a real feat of engineering) and stunning outdoor spaces.
45 countries will be participating in the next set of games, which will be held in Sapporo, Japan, in February 2017. This will be the 8th Asian Winter Games, and is set to be an incredible week, not least because of the venue in Sapporo, a picture-perfect location (it was the site of the winter Olympics in 1972 and the AWG in 1986 and 1990).
The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games is a relatively new event to be added to the sports enthusiast’s calendar. 2013 was the official merger of the Asian Indoor Games and the Asian Martial Arts Games, making the 2017 event, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the second ever. This series of events are designed to offer a large scale arena platform for an incredibly diverse range of activities.
Next year’s event will be held in the central Olympic complex, across 30 venues, over 9 days, and 45 nations will compete in sports including, but not exclusive to Muay Thai, wrestling, tennis, chess, cue sports (billiards and snooker), indoor athletics, swimming, dance, and many, many more. In the 2014 games, held in Incheon, South Korea, 1,663 athletes competed in 100 events, across 9 different venues.
Other Sporting Events Worth Visiting
If you are trying to catch a game or a match somewhere, every year’s calendar is different, with some events being annual, biannual or even quadrennial, so it is worth doing some research before your trip. Here are a few extra suggestions of things you may not want to miss out on.
- This year (September 22nd – October 3rd) the Women’s Baseball World Cup is going to be held in Busan, South Korea. This is the 7th series and will see Japan vying to remain world champions for a fifth successive time (having won continuously since 2008; the first two series were won by the United States). Although baseball has a reputation for being relatively slow-paced, these games have proved to be very popular, and, thanks to baseball’s popularity in South Korea, the atmosphere will imaginably be very enthusiastic – well worth dipping into if you can.
- Fancy yourself a bit of an athlete? The Tri-Dash Bangkok are a series of events at the forefront of amateur triathlons in Thailand. There are events held throughout the year, with shorter, medium and longer distances covered, making it suitable for people of varying abilities, and is a good taster of how you may fare in more substantial races. The Long Dash covers 800 metre swimming, 40 kilometres cycling and 10 kilometres running. There are still plenty of spots to be taken this year, check out their website for more details and to register; http://tridashbangkok.com/
- If you are intrigued by some more authentic traditional sports, this year will see India hosting a Pro Kabaddi League, in both January-February and July-August. Kabaddi is an engaging sport and with eight professional teams taking part, the atmosphere is set to be tense with anticipation.