The Asian Winter Games will begin in Sapporo next month ©Getty Images

Entry numbers for the Sapporo 2017 Asian Winter Games have "surpassed all expectations", the Olympic Council of Asia have claimed with exactly one month to go until the Opening Ceremony.

The OCA believe that winter sport is on the rise throughout the continent, pointing to teams from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain as a sign of the popularity of the Winter Games, along with nations such as Thailand, Singapore and The Philippines.

Thirty-one countries will compete in all, up from 26 in Almaty in 2011.

"The presence of these teams and athletes from unlikely winter sports countries in such a winter sports hotbed as Sapporo will add value to our Games and reflect the true diversity, and unity, of the five zones of our Asian continent," an OCA statement read.

Athletes from Australia and New Zealand will also compete at the Games under the OCA flag. 

Their invitation followed a request by Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates, who was keen to present athletes with more opportunities for high level competition.

They will not be awarded medals, even if they finish in the top three positions, and have been prohibited from taking part in team competitions due to their status as guest athletes from outside Asia.

The OCA have claimed the agreement highlights their mutual understanding and cooperation with the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC).

Among the events to see a major boost in participation from the last edition of the Games at Almaty is ice hockey.

The men’s event will feature 20 teams, compared to the 12 which contested the event six years ago, where Kazakhstan triumphed.

Kazakhstan also won the five-team women’s event, but next month’s competition will feature six nations.

The Games will take place from February 19 to 26, with 11 sports contested throughout the week.

It will mark the event's return to Sapporo, with the city hosting the 1986 and 1990 Asian Winter Games, as well as the 1972 Winter Olympics.

"The OCA is very much looking forward to returning to Sapporo, not only because it is the scenic capital city of Hokkaido but also because it is the original home of our Asian Winter Games," the OCA said.

"We will always be grateful to Sapporo and to the Japanese Olympic Committee for their leadership and unwavering support of the OCA, as this will be the fourth Asian Winter Games to take place in Japan, including Aomori 2003.

"The OCA has every confidence in Sapporo putting on a first-class show for the athletes and spectators alike."

The OCA have claimed the Games will whet the appetite for next year’s Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.