Asian Games : Origin, History and Country Participation

In this article we will take a look at the origin, history, country participation and medal count of the Asian Games format in detail. 

Popularly referred to as the “Asiad”, the Asian Games are typically held every four years among athletes from all over Asia and are governed by the rules and regulations drafted by the Asian Games Federation (AGF). The Asian Games witnessed its inaugural season, hosted in 1951 in New Delhi, India. Although it garnered decent attention and participation from fellow Asian nations, the format was long neglected by the Asian Games Federation (AGF) until 1978. In a series of disputes and conflicts, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) recognized the Asian Games for the 1982 Asian Games season. 

Currently, the Asian Games are perceived as the second-largest multi-sport event on a global scale after the Olympic Games format. Since its inception, a total of nine countries have had the privilege of hosting the Asian Games. Similar to the Olympic Games, it’s considered to be a mandate for the hosting country to organize and host the Para Asian Games for athletes with disabilities right after the mainstream Asian Games event draws its conclusion. Since the 1951 New Delhi Asian Games, a total of nineteen Asian games have been organized and hosted by diverse Asian countries. The most recent Asian Games was held at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, popularly referred to as the Big Lotus in China, in 2023. 

Origin and Expansion 


The Asian Games were formerly known as the “Far Eastern Championship Games”, which was first formulated and played in 1913 in Munich with a total of six countries actively participating in it. Later in 1934, China, after a trail of wars and controversies about the inclusion of the Manchu Empire, withdrew its participation, marking a drastic conclusion of the Far Eastern Championship Games. The post-World War II era marked a significant shift in countries’ interest in sports. With countries like China and the Philippines demanding to bring back the format, a dire need to bring back the Far Eastern Championship Games was felt at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Guru Dutt Sondhi, the official representative of the Indian International Olympic Committee, coined the idea of the Asian Games to restore the spirit of Asian sports.

The Asian Athletic Federation was officially established on 13th February 1949 and New Delhi, India was announced to be the host city for the inaugural season of the Asian Games. Although it seemed to be a smooth road for the Asian Games, the format witnessed a series of dramatic and unpredictable ups and downs. With countries like Israel and Pakistan withdrawing their hosting responsibilities due to their financial and political disruptions, the Asian Games faced a major setback, until the National Olympic Committees made major changes to the Asian Games rules and established the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) in 1981. While countries like India, South Korea, and China actively participated in the Asian Games, Iraq and North Korea were boycotted due to political conflicts and disputes.

Asian Games: “Ever Onward” Symbol 

Guru Dutt Sondhi chose the “ever onward” symbol for the Asian Games in 1949, which symbolizes the motto of always heading forward with passion and perseverance. The official symbol of the Asian Games, with a red sun, a white circle in the middle and a total of sixteen rays surrounding it symbolizes the dawn of a new competitive spirit and the unwavering passion of the Asian countries to establish their players as stalwarts in diverse sports.  

Countries Participation

Currently, a total of forty-five countries are affiliated with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to participate in the diverse sports of the Asian Games. An anecdote of the countries that are affiliated with the OCA and are active participants of the Asian Games in provided below:

List of Asian Games Participant Countries
Afghanistan  Cambodia  India  Jordan Kyrgyzstan  Palestine  Sri Lanka  UAE
Bahrain China Indonesia North Korea Laos  Philippines Syria  Uzbekistan 
Bangladesh  Chinese Taipei Iraq South Korea  Lebanon Qatar Tajikistan  Vietnam 
Bhutan East Timor  Iran Kazakhstan  Malaysia  Soudi Arabia Thailand Yemen
Brunei  Hong Kong  Japan Kuwait  Maldives  Singapore  Turkmenistan Macau

Top Ten Dominant Countries 

Throughout eighteen successful seasons, the Asian Games has established itself as the second biggest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. With 45 participant countries, a few have etched their names as the most competitive teams and have clinched the highest number of medals in the tournament. An anecdote about the top ten countries that have captured the highest number of medals in the Asian Games is provided below:  

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 China 1674 1105 791 3570
2 Japan 1084 1104 1054 3242
3 South Korea 787 722 916 2425
4 Iran 192 202 217 611
5 India 183 239 357 779
6 Kazakhstan 165 180 292 637
7 Thailand 144 189 311 644
8 North Korea 121 161 188 470
9 Chinese Taipei 118 164 304 586
10 Uzbekistan 105 138 171 414
Total number of medals  4573 4204 4601 13378

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