While New Dehli’s successful hosting of the 19th Commonwealth Games was never a certainty thanks to rampant corruption in India’s bureaucracy, Australia’s dominance over the Games was never in doubt.
Every four years, the Australian media waxes lyrical about the great challenge of competing in this idiosyncratic sideshow of former Imperial colonies. And every four years, the media triumphantly reports our success, conveniently sidestepping the underwhelming nature of our opposition.
Australia returns from the sub-continent with 177 medals — 74 of them gold. What you won’t see reported is our relatively poor showing; it’s the first time our gold medal tally has slipped below 80 in 20 years.
Since the Commonwealth Games’ inception in 1930, Australia has failed to top the medal tally only seven times, and has finished first at every Games since 1990.
But as we bask in medals and adulation, across the seas an event with some real competition stirs, and beckons.
Guangzhou, the third largest city in China, will next month host the 16th Asian Games, the second largest sporting event behind the Olympics in terms of athlete participation.
Just a shade over 6000 athletes competed in New Dehli this month; more athletes competed in the 11th Asian Games when Beijing played host in 1990 and more than 10,000 competitors have been predicted for Guangzhou.
Interest in the Commonwealth Games is waning and quite frankly, our participation is little more than an exercise in jingoistic chest thumping. The institution of the Commonwealth is an anachronism. Sporting opinion site The Roar recently raised the prospect of Australia joining the Asian Games, and at every level — sporting, geographic and financial — it makes sense.
Australia’s gymnastic and martial arts programs would only benefit from competing against Asian athletes. We would also be strong medal chances in the Asian Games sports of bowling, cue sports, equestrian, golf, football (soccer for you heathens), karate, sailing and taekwondo.
Kabbadi and sepaktakraw — the latter an eye-popping mix of volleyball and soccer — are sporting curiosities that would provide Australians with a useful cultural insight.
China, South Korea and Japan would offer Australia some real competition. The latter two, whose sporting programs has improved immeasurably in the past decade, finished 7th and 8th respectively behind Australia at the last summer Olympics, while China dominates at the Olympic and Asian level.
As Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah said in 2007 — while rejecting any hope of Australia’s entry — our involvement would add “value for money, 100%” while lifting the “technical side, to our sporting side, to our sponsors”.
However, the Sheik decided it would be unfair to other National Olympic Committee members in Oceania, none of which compete in the Asian Games.
It’s time for the Australian Olympic Committee to seriously consider the idea of joining the Asian Games. The benefits are obvious; all that’s missing is a concerted lobbying effort.