The Games, which begin in Sapporo on Sunday 19 February, have attracted 1,200 athletes from 32 countries and it is the first occasion that Australia has received an invitation to participate.
Australia joined with delegates from Pakistan and Lebanon to mark its official arrival to the Games and the proceedings included a flag raising ceremony, playing of the national anthems and meet and greet with the Games’ official mascot Ezomon.
Australia’s opening ceremony flag bearer Deanna Lockett played an active role, presenting the Sapporo 2017 Organising Committee with a team scarf. In exchange, Lockett accepted a traditional Japanese gift of 1,000 paper cranes which was given to wish the athletes a safe and successful visit to Sapporo. The gift was handcrafted by local children with each crane made one-by-one.
Australian Biathlete Jeremy Flanagan was among the group of athletes in attendance and he was excited to make the ceremony having arrived in Sapporo from Kazakhstan the same day.
“Probably the biggest competition I’ve ever seen,” Flanagan said. “At my last event at the World University Games there were eight other Australians, here there’s 30 along with a whole support network. I’ve never had that before.”
Flanagan is one of a number of Aussies who are experiencing a multi-sport competition for the first time.
“I’m really excited to compete. Pulling the Australian lycra out of my team bag was awesome.”
The Asian Winter Games begins Sunday with Aussies Christian De Oliveira, Nick Masjuk and Mille Bongiorno in action in the Snow Board Giant Slalom.