Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah has been re-elected as president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) for an eighth term, despite an ongoing forgery case in Switzerland.
The news was one of a number of developments to come out of the OCA’s general assembly held in Bangkok, Thailand over the weekend. One of the most powerful figures in world sport, Sheikh Ahmad will serve a new four-year term after the OCA’s Ethics Commission said no action would be taken following a review into the cases concerning the Kuwaiti, as well as vice-president, and Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) president, Tsunekazu Takeda.
Sheikh Ahmad has denied all wrongdoing but in November elected to temporarily stand down from his roles and responsibilities as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member after it emerged he had been charged in Switzerland with forgery. Sheikh Ahmad is accused, along with four other others, of plotting a scheme to prove that Kuwait’s former Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and parliament speaker, Jassem al-Kharafi, were guilty of corruption and plotting a coup.
Takeda has also been re-elected as an OCA vice-president as he fights his own legal battles. French investigators are looking into a multi-million dollar payment made by Japan’s 2020 Olympic Games bidding committee to a Singaporean consultancy and placed Takeda under formal investigation in December.
Takeda has also denied all wrongdoing and the OCA said in a statement: “The Ethics Commission reiterated everyone’s right to the presumption of innocence.”
Meanwhile, the OCA has invited Oceania nations to compete at the 2022 Asian Games, where cricket will return to the sporting programme for the event in Hangzhou, China. The continental body had said in 2017 that they would allow around 300 athletes and 150 support staff from the Pacific Ocean countries to compete in sports whose qualification paths for the 2024 Paris Olympics went through Asia.
The OCA has said that Oceania athletes from volleyball, beach volleyball, basketball, football and fencing would be invited to Hangzhou, a move welcomed by Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president and IOC member John Coates, who has long lobbied for the move.
“Australia is very grateful for this opportunity which was confirmed this weekend and there will be enormous interest from our Oceania neighbours,” Coates said. “This is something I have been pursuing for more than 20 years.”
Cricket will also be part of Hangzhou 2022 after the OCA added it to the sports programme for the next edition of the Asian Games. The news comes as a boost to the sport’s stakeholders, who have been lobbying for it to play a bigger part in multi-sport events.
Cricket featured at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, but was dropped for last year’s edition in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia. OCA honorary life vice-president Randhir Singh, who has been appointed as chairman of the coordination committee for the Asian Games, told the Reuters news agency that he visited Hangzhou last month to see venue options to host cricket. He added: “They showed us grounds which were a bit small. We asked options for bigger grounds.”
Finally, the OCA has awarded hosting rights for another of its major events to China. The city of Shantou will stage the 2021 Asian Youth Games. The event will be the third edition of the Games, following past competitions in Singapore (2009) and Nanjing, China (2013).
The Shantou municipal government said in a statement: “It is the first time for Shantou to host such a large sports event, we believe it will help improve infrastructures in the city and promote the image of the city internationally.”