Combining elements of artificial intelligence and environmentally friendly technology, the Asian Games in Hangzhou kicked off on Saturday with a unique opening ceremony, highlighted 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 blend of technology, 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 focused on the mixing 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 created by the rising tide of the Qiantang River – which flows through Hangzhou – was the underlying theme of the grand evening that lasted almost two hours.
The ceremony sought to portray a distinctly Chinese and a uniquely Asian flair, capturing the country’s cultural heritage and romantic images through the blending of millennia-old civilization and modern technology, through stunning visuals.
It portrayed the efforts of China’s path to modernization in a presentation that combined oriental aesthetics with a point of view that resonates with a global audience.
China’s technological might was highlighted everywhere as the lighting of the cauldron – the Flame of the Games – was done in a unique way.
Digital technology was used as torchbearers jointly lit the cauldron in the virtual and physical worlds.
Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Games open as more than 12,000 athletes from 45 countries prepare to compete for top honors until October 8.
Randhir Singh, Acting President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), Thomas Bach, Chief of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), heads of various countries, officials of the National Olympic Committees and a host of other dignitaries were present on the occasion.
The Games are being held late 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 fireworks. Still, it created an exciting atmosphere.
The almost full 80,000 capacity ‘Big Lotus’ Stadium was elegantly decorated 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 canceled 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, although 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 left the athletes’ parade in eighth place.
From the tennis team, only Ramkumar Ramanathan took part in the parade as the other players have matches on Sunday.
The male athletes were dressed in a bandhgala jacket and khaki kurta, while their female counterparts wore a high-neck blouse and a khaki textured sari 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 archaeological ruin of Liangzhu city.
In an effort to use culture as a medium to combine the power of technology and the beauty of art inspired by traditional Chinese culture, the opening ceremony combined the flavor of images from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and elements unique to the country.
Through innovative modern technologies, the ceremony also showcased the attractiveness, appeal and uniqueness of Eastern aesthetics, as well as the profound impact that culture has, the power of science and the all-encompassing reach of art.
After a protocol portion of the ceremony that lasted about an hour, a 30-minute cultural program captivated the crowd. That was followed by lighting the Cauldron and playing the official song.
By hosting the continent’s largest multi-sport event, China has heralded the opening of the pandemic with a mammoth competition, the largest ever in its history.
The Olympic Games are undoubtedly the top sporting event in the world, but more athletes participate in the Asian Games, with more than 12,000 participants in Hangzhou.
About 11,000 people took part in the Tokyo Olympics two years ago and about 10,500 will do so at the Paris Games next year.
Just over 11,000 athletes took part in the 2018 Asian Games, which will be surpassed in Hangzhou.
In addition to Hangzhou, the 19th edition of the continental showpiece will be held in five other cities: Huzhou, Ningbo, Shaoxing, Jinhua and Wenzhou.
Forty-five countries and territories in Asia will compete for 481 gold medals from 40 sports and 61 disciplines, including Esports, which is making its debut at the Games. Competitions in football, volleyball, cricket, rowing, sailing and modern pentathlon started before Saturday’s opening ceremony.
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