The 19th Summer Asian Games, which was postponed for a year due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), kicked off with a bang at the Olympic Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, capital of China’s Zhejiang province, at 9 p.m. (KST) on Wednesday.
There were briefly talks of moving the opening ceremony indoors due to the autumn rain that soaked Hangzhou for four days until this morning.
However, as the rains eased in the afternoon, the organizing committee held the opening ceremony as scheduled at the main venue, the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium, marking the first international sports meet in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic (endemic).
Chinese President Xi Jinping personally attended the opening ceremony and welcomed the athletes and other dignitaries to Hangzhou, including South Korean Prime Minister Han Deok-soo, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kuwaiti Crown Prince Mishal Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and Timorese Prime Minister Sanana Gusmao.
When the Summer Asian Games torch is relit at the Olympic Sports Center Stadium, dubbed the “giant lotus” for its vivid representation of Hangzhou’s iconic lotus flower on the stadium’s façade, five years after the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games, the 17-day spectacle for Asia’s 4.6 billion people will finally begin.
Athletes from each of the 45 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of the OCA will enter in order of their English alphabetical abbreviation.
Afghanistan (AFG) will be the first to enter the ceremony, followed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with boxer Bang Chol-mi and shooter Park Myong-won as co-flag bearers.
The DPRK unilaterally boycotted the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 to prevent COVID-19 from entering the country and was subsequently suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and banned from international competition until the end of 2022.
The IOC lifted the suspension at the start of 2023, marking North Korea’s return to international sports competition after a five-year absence.
North Korea sent 185 athletes to compete in 18 sports.
Co-captains Koo Bon-gil (fencing) and Kim Seo-young (swimming) and a 100-member South Korean contingent will make their 16th appearance under the Korean flag.
Korea is sending a record-breaking 1,140 athletes and officials to the Games, aiming to win more than 50 gold medals and finish third in the overall standings.
After a 40-minute parade of athletes, the last of which is host China, President Xi Jinping will declare the Games open, followed by a 45-minute opening performance.
Eight Chinese sports stars, including legendary track and field coach Sun Haiping and diving legend Guo Jingjing, will carry the OCA flag, while six more, including men’s table tennis world number one Fan Zhenndong and Tokyo 2020 Olympic swimming gold medalist Wang Shun, will be the final torchbearers.
Hangzhou was unanimously voted to host the 2022 Summer Asian Games at the 2015 Asian Olympic Council (OCA) General Assembly.
It will be the third time China has hosted the Summer Asian Games, following Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010.
Hangzhou, the home of China’s information technology (IT) industry, announced early on that the Games would be green, digital, and smart.
In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, the city abandoned the fireworks that have traditionally highlighted the opening ceremony and instead promised to offer a different experience with cutting-edge technology, including three-dimensional digital video, augmented reality (AR), fifth-generation mobile communications technology, and big data.
An online and offline torch relay, as well as a dedicated online platform to watch the games, are also new attempts to make the Games ‘smart’.
The Asian Games will kick off on October 24 with the medal race in full swing at 54 venues across six cities in Zhejiang province – Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing, and Jinhua – and will conclude on October 8.
Twelve thousand athletes from 45 NOCs will take to the starting line for 481 gold medals in 40 sports and 61 disciplines, putting their honor and national pride on the line. 파워볼