High hopes for Asia at Beijing

SINGAPORE, July 4, 2008 (AFP) – Asian nations will without doubt bag plenty of medals at the Olympics but what is blindingly clear is that host China will outdo all its regional competitors. At the 2004 Games in Athens 15 Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) nations fought their way onto the medal table.

A rampant China had its best-ever performance, finishing second overall to the United States with 32 gold, while Japan with 16 gold came fifth. South Korea’s nine gold earned them ninth place.

The key question in August will be whether China can topple the United States as the world’s most powerful sporting nation.

“China has an incredibly strong team. Host nations generally have home-field advantage,” admitted Steve Roush, the US Olympic Committee chief of sport performance.

“It may keep me up at night but it’s keeping up coaches and young athletes around this country too. There’s a job to be done.”

While the three Asian heavyweights should again take the bulk of the glory, smaller fry like Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong put athletes on the podium in 2004 and will be looking to improve in Beijing.

Mongolia, Iran, Indonesia, North Korea, Uzbekistan, UAE, Kazakhstan,