Chef de Missions from participating NOCs have travelled to Sapporo ahead of the Asian Winter Games ©OCA

All 45 members of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) have been urged to participate in February's Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, even those with little or no experience in snow and ice sport.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Chefs de Mission Seminar in the Japanese city today, OCA honorary life vice-president Wei Jizhong, claimed interest in winter sports is growing and developing across the continent.

Even those with no snow - such as Malaysia, Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar - now play ice sports and could therefore participate, he urged.

“The OCA encourages all NOCs to try your best to send your athletes to the Sapporo Asian Winter Games,” said Wei, a former President of the International Volleyball Federation.

“The importance is not getting medals; the importance is participation, as is the motto of the International Olympic Committee.

“Even NOCs with no winter sports athletes are very welcome to the Asian Winter Games in order to prepare your athletes for future Winter Games.”

Delegates from 31 NOCs are in Sapporo for the three-day Seminar ©Facebook/Jeremy Walker
Delegates from 31 NOCs are in Sapporo for the three-day Seminar ©Facebook/Jeremy Walker

"Excellent preparations" have been made ahead of Sapporo 2017, due to take place from February 19 to 26, Wei claimed. 

“We have checked three times here and we did not meet any problems, so we are convinced the Games will be a big success in Asia - and its influence will be worldwide.”

Forty-six delegates from 31 NOCs were welcomed to the seminar by Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto, who claimed his city had a proven track record in hosting major international sports events since organising the Winter Olympics in 1972.

“Since our winter sports have great significance in the Asia region, we expect the largest athlete turnout,” he said.

Around 1,500 athletes from around 30 NOCs were expected to compete in the Games, scheduled to take place from February 19 to 26.

Eleven venues are in Sapporo, with co-host Obihiro set to host speed skating competition.

It will mark the eighth Asian Winter Games but the first since one co-hosted by Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan in 2011.