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The Asian Games, also called the Asiad, are a series of athletic events restricted to Asian and Middle Eastern nations. The competition is held over a period of several weeks, every four years. They are also called the Asian Olympics, because athletes perform at the Olympic standard and they represent a cooperative effort on the part of multiple nations. The Asian Games are overseen by the Asian Olympic Committee, which is partnered with the International Olympic Committee.
The first Asian Games were held in 1951, although a variety of other multi-sport games had been held in Asia before. In the first Asian Games, 11 countries participated in six sports. The games continue to expand, with 45 countries participating in 39 sports events in 2006. In order enter the Asian Games, an athlete must be nominated by his or her National Olympic Committee.
Until 1982, the games were overseen by the Asian Games Federation. In a 1981 meeting of the Federation, the member National Olympic Committees agreed to form an Asian Olympic Committee to take charge of the Asian Games. The Asian Olympic Committee expanded the offerings of the Asian Games, and provided standards and rules for Asian athletes to abide by at the games, including anti-doping rules. The Asian Olympic Committee has been instrumental in developing and promoting sports throughout Asia.
Events at the Asian Games include equestrian, swimming, wrestling, cycling, boating, martial arts, and a wide variety of others. Sponsoring nations range widely from Indonesia to Qatar, with Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and atheist athletes competing. In addition to the traditional Asian Games, Asian Beach Games, Asian Indoor Games, and Asian Winter Games are also held.
The Asian Winter Games were first held in 1986 in Sapporo, Japan, focusing on winter sports such as skiing, skating, hockey, curling, and snowboarding. The Asian Winter Games are held every four years, in northern nations with high snowfall amounts.
The Asian Indoor Games include sports which are not listed as Olympic sports. The Indoor Games are held every two years, starting in 2005. Sports at the Indoor Games include bowling, chess, aerobics, billiards, dance competition, and indoor soccer. The Indoor Games can be held in any member nation which is willing to host them.
The Asian Beach Games, scheduled to begin in 2008 in Indonesia, include non-Olympic, beach-oriented sports. Sports at the Beach Games include surfing, windsurfing, dragon boat, handball, volleyball, and parasailing. Member nations with plentiful seashore are invited to host the Beach Games.
Like the International Olympic Games, the Asian Games celebrate cooperation and unity despite differences. Athletes from a wide variety of nations are able to travel, meet new people, and bring back lessons about the rest of the world to their home nations. The Asian Games forge unity and friendship between their member nations by joining athletes, trainers, and observers together.