Patricipating at the Asian Winter Games is billed as way to improve standards in Australian winter sport ©Getty Images

Patricipating as guest athletes at next year's Asian Winter Games will help raise the standards of Australian winter sport, officials from the country have claimed.

A measure was passed at yesterday's Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly enabling athletes from Oceania to compete under the OCA flag in Japanese city Sapporo in 2017.

It followed a special request from Australian Olympic Committee President, John Coates.

This will be a boost for a number of up-and-coming and established Australian winter athletes, it is hoped, who will get the chance to test themselves against the best Asia has to offer. 

"Being able to compete at such a high level is the only way our athletes will continue to get better," said Biathlon Australia President Grant Flanagan.

"We hope to be sending a strong team that will no doubt get a massive amount out of what is set to be a high quality competition."

Athletes from the nation will be able to compete in all individual events.

This includes Alpine, freestyle and cross-country skiing as well as ski jumping, snowboarding, biathlon, speed skating, figure skating and short track.

The Oceanian inclusion followed a request from Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates ©Getty Images
The Oceanian inclusion followed a request from Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates ©Getty Images

They will not be awarded medals, however, even if they finish in the top three positions.

They will also not be able to compete in the team sports of curling and ice hockey.

Oceania nations are due to have full participation under their own flags at next year's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat.

OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah had previously raised the possibility of them one day participating at the full Asian Games.

Australia is already a member of the Asian Football Confederation and competes in the World Cup qualifying tournament in that region. 

"The Asian Winter Games have become a very high level competition with over 30 National Olympic Committees taking part," added OCA director general Husain Al Musallam.

"Oceania is a neighbouring confederation for Asia and we welcome not only Australia but all Oceania to take the opportunity to enter for the first time, as a guest but with no medals. 

"We will evaluate the situation after that."

Athletes from New Zealand and other Pacific Islands are also eligible to compete, although the measure is expected to mostly benefit Australian athletes.

The Sapporo Asian Winter Games will take place between February 19 and 26 next year.