Hangzhou Asian Games opens with futuristic ceremony

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Games open as more than 12,000 athletes from 45 countries gear up to fight for top honours till October 8.
Flag-bearers Lovlina Borgohain and Harmanpreet Singh lead the Indian contingent during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games. (Photo | PTI)
Flag-bearers Lovlina Borgohain and Harmanpreet Singh lead the Indian contingent during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games. (Photo | PTI)

HANGZHOU: Blending elements of artificial intelligence and environmentally friendly technology, the Hangzhou Asian Games began here on Saturday with a one-of-a-kind opening ceremony, headlined by a spectacular futuristic light show.

The dazzling programme, held amid a diplomatic row over the denial of entry to three Indian athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, was a melange of technology, a cultural history of China, and the spirit of the continent's unity.

In keeping with the main theme of 'Tides Surging in Asia', the ceremony was about the intermingling of China, Asia and the world in the new era, as well as the unity, love and friendship of the Asian people.

The water element through the surging tide of the Qiantang River -- which flows through Hangzhou -- was the underlying theme of the grand evening which lasted nearly two hours.

The ceremony sought to portray a distinctly Chinese and a uniquely Asian flair, capturing the country's cultural heritage and romantic imagery through the blending of its thousands of years old civilization and modern technology, through stunning visuals.

It portrayed the efforts of China's path to modernisation in a presentation that combined Eastern aesthetics and a viewpoint that connected with a global audience.

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, in Hangzhou. (Photo |PTI)
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, in Hangzhou. (Photo |PTI)

The technological might of China was written all over with the lighting of the cauldron -- the Games' Flame -- being done in a unique way.

Digital technology was utilised as torchbearers in the virtual and physical worlds jointly lighted the cauldron.

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Games open as more than 12,000 athletes from 45 countries gear up to fight for top honours till October 8.

The Olympic Council of Asia's (OCA) acting president Randhir Singh, International Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach, heads of several countries, officials of National Olympic Committees and a host of other dignitaries were present on the occasion.

The Games are being held belatedly due to a surge in Covid cases in China last year.

In keeping with the concept of 'Green Asian Games' or carbon-neutral Games, the opening ceremony used digital fireworks instead of real ones.

It, nevertheless, created a thrilling atmosphere.

The nearly-packed 80,000 capacity 'Big Lotus' stadium was decked up elegantly for the occasion and welcomed the athletes from the participating countries, including India, with loud cheers.

After three wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh were denied visas by the Chinese government, India had cancelled the visit of its sports minister Anurag Thakur.

Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha was not present as she is currently in Paraguay as part of a Parliamentary delegation, though other officials attended the ceremony.

Loud cheers greeted the nearly 100 Indian athletes and officials as they marched into the stadium, led by flag-bearers Harmanpreet Singh and Lovlina Borgohain.

The Indian contingent walked out for the athletes' parade in eighth position.

Indian contingent during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, in Hangzhou. (Photo | PTI)
Indian contingent during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, in Hangzhou. (Photo | PTI)

From the tennis team, only Ramkumar Ramanathan participated in the parade since the other players had matches on Sunday.

The male athletes were clad in bandhgala jackets and khaki kurtas while their female counterparts donned high-necked blouses and khaki-textured sarees made from recycled fabrics.

India is fielding 655 athletes in the Games.

To begin with, the theme 'Water in Autumn Glow' depicted water as the heart and soul of Hangzhou, where water comes in many forms -- West Lake, Qiantang Tidal Bores, the thousand-year-old Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and the water conservation system of the Archeological Ruin of Liangzhu City.

In a bid to use culture as a medium of blending the power of technology and the beauty of art inspired by traditional Chinese culture, the opening ceremony combined the flavour of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province imagery and elements unique to the country.

Through innovative modern technologies, the ceremony also showcased the attractiveness, appeal and unique nature of Eastern aesthetics, as well as the profound impact culture has, the power of science, and the encompassing reach of art.

After around an hour-long protocol part of the ceremony, a cultural programme of 30 minutes enthralled the crowd.

That was followed by the lighting of the Cauldron and the playing of the official song.

By hosting the continent's biggest multi-sporting event, China has heralded its opening from the pandemic with a giant competition, the largest ever in its history.

No doubt, the Olympics is the pinnacle multi-sporting event in the world but more athletes compete in the Asian Games, with more than 12,000 taking part in Hangzhou.

About 11,000 participated in the Tokyo Olympics two years ago and about 10,500 will do so in the next year's Paris Games.

The 2018 Asian Games had seen a little over 11,000 athletes taking part, which will be surpassed in Hangzhou.

Besides Hangzhou, the 19th edition of the continental showpiece will be held in five other cities -- Huzhou, Ningbo, Shaoxing, Jinhua and Wenzhou.

Forty-five nations and territories in Asia will compete for 481 gold medals from 40 sports and 61 disciplines, including Esports which is making its debut in the Games.

Competitions in football, volleyball, cricket, rowing, sailing and modern pentathlon began before Saturday's opening ceremony.

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