Week 62 (22 - 28 November 2014)
This week Dr Robin Mitchell and his Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) colleagues crossed two oceans and twice as many seas to secure the presence of Oceania athletes at the Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in 2017, when the four-yearly multi-sport event comes to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, for the first time.
Mitchell became President of ONOC in 2009 and has since made it his mission to seek more frequent and more serious competition for Oceania athletes. This recent success – which will see athletes from 17 nations and seven associate members of the Oceania region compete at the AIMAG 2017 – was sealed through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow; OCA and ANOC President, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah; and Chairman of the AIMAG 2017 Executive Committee, Dayanch Gulgeldiyev.
OCA and ONOC athletes competing against each other in a city with ambitions to become a flag bearer for Asian sports will make the AIMAG 2017 a symbolic Games for all parties – and Mitchell has been the instigator of it.
His comments at the MoU signing offered a snippet of the rhetoric which he no doubt deployed when pitching the inclusion of ONOC athletes to the OCA. Highlighting a shared history between people living in the Pacific islands and their ancestors hailing from northern parts of eastern Asia, Mitchell said:
"That link was there many, many centuries before western civilisation reached our part of the world." He then also commented that ONOC countries' participation in the AIMAG was a "natural progression" given Asia's and Oceania's close ties.
Mitchell constructed a compelling narrative for ONOC's inclusion in the AIMAG 2017 but part of the success behind this historic deal is owed to Sheikh Ahmad, who continues to deliver on his promise to improve the support ANOC offers to all 204 of its NOCs.
The up-shot of all this is a bigger, bolder and more competitive AIMAG 2017 and a more serious competition for Oceania martial arts athletes. Sometimes in sport everyone's a winner.
Photo: Fox Sports Pulse