There have been some interesting Olympics shenanigans going on this week and Australia is in the thick of the action. All the fun and games has been centred around that ol’ chestnut – should Australia be aligned to Oceania or Asia?

For the uninitiated, the international Olympic gravy train is split up into different groups and each of these groups represents a bundle of votes that can be used to elect IOC big kahunas, do a favour for a fellow gravy train passenger or simply to justify lots of overseas trips with 5-star accommodation, fine dining and other lurks.

So it came as no surprise when Kuwait’s IOC member and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah let loose with an anti-Oz tirade on Tuesday during a media conference at the Asian Games.

As was covered in the local press last week, Al-Sabah reckons the decision by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to accept the Football Federation Australia (FFA) as a member was a big mistake.

“If Australia will come to Asia, we are killing about 16 other nations,” Al-Sabah told journalists. “I think it’s a big mistake to bring Australia to our football, it was a big mistake by (the) AFC and for President (Mohamed bin) Hammam. Maybe they are … inside only for the marketing and sponsorship view.”

“In Asia there are 45 countries and NOCs and it’s enough for our Games and competitions. Let them (Oceania) develop their sport.”

Sheikh Ahmad said Australia competing only in the football competition at future Asian Games would likely be impossible because it wouldn’t “go with our constitution at all”, but participation of Oceania NOCs at the Asian Indoor Games in Macau in October 2007, would be seriously considered by OCA.

“Now we have a request from Australia to participate … in our Indoor Games in Macau,” he said. “There is not a big budget to host these Games and for that, at this point for the Indoor Games, we would allow Australia to be our observer, our altruistic partner in these Games, just to share the experience.”

The catalyst for these comments was perhaps some remarks made by his OCA deputy Manuel Silvero, that Australia may be able to take part in future Asian Games – the second biggest multi-sport event in the world and third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.

Australia right now is a member of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) which has AOC director and IOC member Kevan Gosper as its president. A few sports events go on under ONOC’s umbrella but nothing too big or exciting.

The lure for Australia to get into bed with OCA is obvious given the fact that it has Indoor Games, Winter Games, Beach Games and even regional games within Asia. No doubt Australian athletes would benefit from competing alongside better athletes more regularly in Asia.

But apart from Al-Sabah, it looks like an Australian – you guess who – has thrown a spanner in the works.

Peter Fray

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