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Asian Games begin with another awesome Chinese masterpiece

Friday November 12, 2010 08:53:42 PM, IANS

Guangzhou: After storming the sporting world by hosting a spectacular Olympics and topping the medals tally at Beijing two years ago, Guangzhou Friday came up with a breathtaking opening ceremony to unfurl the 16th Asian Games in pomp and style.

If the Olympics displayed China's economic might and sporting prowess, Guangzhou has reinforced China's growing status as a
superpower by pumping in billions of dollars in putting up the show in the prosperous and sprawling city in the Pearl River delta.

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou echoed "Thrilling Games, Harmonious Asia" with a ceremony that was taken out of the main stadium to a riverfront for the first time in the history of any multi-disciplinary event.

The ceremony, set on tiny Haixinsha island on the Pearl River which runs through the heart of Guangzhou, drew traditional southern Chinese culture and featured a strong watery theme. The sea of colours, the fireworks, and the technical innovation of the entire show left everyone awestruck.

And when Olympic and Asian Games diving champion He Chong lit the Asian Games cauldron by setting off a giant firecracker, China once again wowed the world with its creativity.

Two decades after the Beijing Asian Games in 1990 underscored China's rapid strides in the sporting arena, the country is hosting the biggest Games ever. The 15-day mega event will witness a conglomeration of 9,704 athletes from 45 Asian countries and regions.

The Guangzhou Games feature 42 sports disciplines - the most since the Asian Games were first staged in New Delhi in 1951. In the last Asian Games in Doha, China was way ahead at the top of the tally with 165 gold medals.

The organisers have added 12 new competition venues besides sprucing up subways, ports and city streets in creating a fabulous infrastructure.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, IOC president Jacques Rogge and leaders and royal family members from other Asian countries were present at the opening ceremony.

The entire city was involved in the opening spectacle as tens of thousands of residents welcomed the Games. It was an interactive "Festival of Harmony" with the athletes and officials from 45 National Olympic Committees sailing along the river.

The ceremony began with a ship aptly dubbed "Harmony" setting sail to mark the start of the Games. This was followed the march-past of athletes.

The 45-minute and 9.3-km boat parade named "Setting Sail" was one of the highlights of the three-hour long opening ceremony.

The athletes and official were carried on a boat to the "ship" on the island and along the way they had glimpses of Guangzhou's culture and fascinating riverside life under a dazzling night skyline. They glided past the buildings, bridges and other landmarks lit up by a sea of neon and laser lights.

Also showcased was a local wedding, Cantonese Opera, a painting of a scroll depicting the "City of Five Goats, a flower, a fashion show and demonstrations of martial arts, percussion music and opera fused into cutting-edge modernity.

Elements such as the folk dance and the lion dance were used is the ceremony that underscored the natural scenery of the region. The Asian Philharmoic Orchestra performed in the segment dubbed "The Ship in the Ocean."

Drum beating with Guangzhou characteristics reached its peak before the 'Five Goats' mascot was invited into the to start the ceremony amid joyful folk songs.

The ceremony marked the realisation of a seven-year long dream that began with Guangzhou making the bid for the Asian Games in December 2003. The rights to the 2010 Games were officially awarded to Guangzhou by the Olympic Council of Asia July 1, 2004.





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