By Paul Osborne at the Susesi Convention Center in Belek

Sapporo will play host to the 2017 Winter Asian Games ©Sapporo2017

April 9 - Sapporo's sporting history and brand is the secret behind the 2017 Asian Winter Games, the city's Vice-Mayor Ikushima Noriaki has claimed.

Speaking here at the SportAccord International Convention, Noriaki claimed his city's long sporting history, which saw it host the first ever Winter Olympic Games in Asia in 1972, and increasingly popular brand will be key in the success of the Games.

"Sapporo has a history of hosting international sports events and conferences so we have the know-how of them," he said.

"In addition I believe the Sapporo brand is one of the secrets.

"Sapporo has been selected as Japan's most attractive city.

"It is well known for its fresh fruit, rich nature and high levels of public safety.

"I hope both athletes and officials will have a comfortable and memorable visit to Sapporo."

Sapporo played host to the first ever Winter Asian Games in 1986 where around 290 athletes from seven countries competed across seven sports.

Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, the first Winter Games to be held in Asia ©AFP/Getty ImagesSapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, the first Winter Games to be held in Asia ©AFP/Getty Images

The 2017 Games, the third to be held in the city, are due to feature 11 disciplines from five different sports - biathlon, curling, ice hockey, skating and skiing - with 1,200 athletes from 30 countries expected to attend.

The competition will be held across eight days in February 2017, using facilities built for the Olympic Games in 1972.

It is expected to cost in the region of 3.5 billion Yen (£20.4 million/$34.4 million/€24.7 million) and, although no new venues are to be built, a large portion of these funds will be spent on modernising the facilities from the Games in 1972.

During his speech, Noriaki claimed he was proud of the development of the competition since its inauguration in Sapporo in 1986, and was confident of the preparations ahead of the latest edition.

"The event has become very large and we are proud of it," he said.

"I really hope that more and more athletes will participate in the Games.

"We are not worried about the organising date because we have already decided on how many disciplines and how many sports will be at the event.

"So our preparations are nearly perfect."

Obihiro will host a number of the events for the Games, with both it, and Sapporo, given the hosting rights during an Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly at the 2011 Astana Winter Asian Games.

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