Will the postponed Asian Games be held in September 2023?
The slotting of the postponed Hangzhou Asian Games is a matter of speculation but the decision-making is likely to be influenced by athletics' choc-a-bloc international calendar, weather and that it must not clash with another Continental showpiece.
The slotting of the postponed Hangzhou Asian Games is a matter of speculation but the decision-making is likely to be influenced by athletics' choc-a-bloc international calendar, weather and that it must not clash with another continental showpiece.
The Hangzhou Games, postponed owing to surging COVID-19 cases in China, are unlikely to be held this year as the organisers would not have deferred a multi-sport event of such a magnitude for just one or two months. A careful consideration of various factors suggest that scheduling the Games even in the first half of 2023 would not be possible and the best-looking slot for the Hangzhou event seems to be September next year.
International athletics calendar
One of the main factors which is likely to be taken into consideration by the Olympic Council of Asia, Chinese Olympic Committee and the Organising Committee is the international calendar of athletics which is the blue-riband event and contributes a large chunk of participants and medals.
The 2023 World Athletics Championships will be held in Hungary from August 18 to 27 and before that there will be the usual prestigious Diamond League Meetings of 14 legs from April-May to August-September. The athletes plan their training in such a way that they peak near the World Championship, so having the Asiad in the first half would mean that athletes won't be ready and it could result in non-participation of top Asian athletes.
Also, next year's international calendar of most sports have already been fixed and it will be difficult to change them for the sake of a regional/continental multi-sport event. The international calendar of the most prominent Olympic sports end by September and just a few of the top events are left by then. So, considering it, it seems September is best slot for Hangzhou Games.
History of Asian Games dates
Out of the 18 editions of the Asian Games, 12 were held either in September or after that. The 1962 and the 2018 edition in Indonesia were spread over late August and early September. Only three editions of the Asian Games have been staged in the first half of the year -- inaugural edition New Delhi (in March, 1951), the second edition in Manila (in May, 1954) and the third edition in Tokyo (May-June, 1960).
Veteran sports administrator Lalit Bhanot, who served as Athletics Federation of India secretary for many years, said the Asian Games can be held either in June-July or September next year.
"If we consider next year, I gather that Hangzhou is cold in March and April and so the Games will have to be held after April only," Bhanot, who was also the secretary general of 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, told PTI.
"So, for me, the Hangzhou Asian Games can be held either before or after the World Athletics Championships. The Asian Games can be held in June-July or September and I would tend to think of the latter month."
Indian Olympic Association Secretary General Rajeev Mehta also said the postponed Asian Games are most likely to be held at the same September slot next year. "If you see the international calendar of most sports next year, we can safely assume that the postponed Asian Games will be held in the same September slot next year. I am more or less certain about that," Mehta said. "It is unlikely to change the international calendar of most sports which have already been fixed. It is not Olympics but Asian Games and international federations will be reluctant to change their calendar for next year."
Regarding hockey, another important Olympic sport, the FIH pro-league season will continue till June next year, so an Asian Games window can ideally be only after that. The four-stage archery World Cup series will end in late July while the World Cup Final will be held in October.
China is also hosting two big events next year - World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing in March and AFC Asian Cup football in June-July in 10 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Asian Games' European counterpart, the European Games, will be held in Poland between June 21 and July 2 and the Hangzhou Games organisers may have to weigh in that also as multi-sport events of two continents rarely clashed in dates.
The Chinese city of Sanya is also scheduled to host another multi-sport event, the Asian Beach Games, in 2023 after they were rescheduled from 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic. The exact dates have not yet been announced by the Olympic Council of Asia.
The Asian Games are of similar magnitude as Olympic Games in the number of participants and sports, though of lesser quality of competition. The 2018 Asian Games saw around 11,300 athletes from 45 countries competing in 40 sports as compared to Tokyo Games, where 11,500 participants from 206 countries competed in 33 sports. The Tokyo Olympics gave away 1079 medals while the 2018 Asian Games had 1551 medals on offer.