The Asian Games are a multi-sport event for Asian and Middle Eastern nations, overseen by the Asian Olympic Committee. The first games were held in 1951, with 11 countries participating in six sports. The games have expanded to include 45 countries and 39 sporting events. In addition to the traditional games, there are also Asian beach games, Asian indoor games, and Asian winter games. The games celebrate cooperation and unity among nations.
The Asian Games, also called Asiad, are a series of sporting events reserved for Asian and Middle Eastern nations. The competition takes place over a period of several weeks, every four years. They are also called the Asian Olympics, because the athletes perform to Olympic standards and represent a cooperative effort by multiple nations. The Asian Games are overseen by the Asian Olympic Committee, which is a partner of the International Olympic Committee.
The first Asian Games were held in 1951, although a number of other multi-sport games had been held in Asia before. In the first Asian Games, 11 countries participated in six sports. The games continue to expand, with 45 countries participating in 39 sporting events in 2006. To participate in the Asian Games, an athlete must be nominated by their National Olympic Committee.
Until 1982, the games were overseen by the Asian Games Federation. At a 1981 meeting of the Federation, the member National Olympic Committees agreed to form an Asian Olympic Committee to take charge of the Asian Games. The Asian Olympic Committee has expanded the Asian Games offering and provided standards and rules for Asian athletes to abide by during the Games, including anti-doping rules. The Asian Olympic Committee has been instrumental in the development and promotion of sport throughout Asia.
Events at the Asian Games include equestrian, swimming, wrestling, cycling, rowing, martial arts and a wide variety of others. Sponsoring nations range widely from Indonesia to Qatar, with Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist athletes competing. In addition to the traditional Asian games, Asian beach games, Asian indoor games and Asian winter games are also held.
The Asian Winter Games were first held in 1986 in Sapporo, Japan with a focus on winter sports such as skiing, skating, hockey, curling and snowboarding. The Asian Winter Games are held every four years, in northern countries with heavy snowfall.
The Asian Indoor Games includes sports that are not listed as Olympic sports. The Indoor Games have been held every other year since 2005. Sports at the Indoor Games include bowling, chess, aerobics, billiards, dance competitions, and soccer. The Indoor Games can be held in any member nation that is willing to host them.
The Asian Beach Games, scheduled to begin in 2008 in Indonesia, include non-Olympic beach-oriented sports. Sports at the Beach Games include surfing, windsurfing, dragon boating, handball, volleyball and parasailing. Member nations with an abundance of beaches are welcome to host the Beach Games.
Like the International Olympic Games, the Asian Games celebrate cooperation and unity despite differences. Athletes from a wide variety of nations can travel, meet new people, and bring lessons about the rest of the world back to their home nations. The Asian Games build unity and friendship among their member countries by uniting athletes, coaches and observers.