Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 20 News List

S Korean president opens Asian Games

EYEING GLORY:Taiwanese athletes joined those of 44 other nations at the opening ceremony at which ‘Gangnam Style’ singer Psy delivered a rousing finale

Reuters, INCHEON, South Korea

The Taiwanese team enters the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, yesterday.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The 17th Asian Games opened in a multicolored blaze of fireworks and carefully crafted K-pop routines yesterday, as athletes from the world’s most populous region came together in pursuit of gold and glory in South Korea.

An array of Olympians and regional sports stars will compete over 15 days of competition in Incheon, where South Korean President Park Geun-hye and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach were among the powerful figures watching a vivid opening ceremony.

Athletes dressed in colorful national garb, sharp suits and comfortable tracksuits waved to a crowd of 60,000, who offered enthusiastic welcomes to delegations from 45 nations, including the South’s belligerent neighbor, North Korea.

South Korean culture, known as the “Korean Wave,” has swept through Asia in recent years generating billions of dollars in revenue from drama and pop music, and yesterday’s ceremony drew heavily on its influence.

Actress and model Lee Young-ae lit the Asian Games cauldron and Gangnam Style singer Psy delivered a rousing finale.

The ceremony, dubbed “Dream of 4.5 billion people, One Asia,” also featured traditional Korean performances of song, dance and poetry as athletes stood shoulder to shoulder behind the flags of their nations at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium.

“We are delighted to welcome you, and are looking forward to seeing you compete and perform based on fair play and respect. You are the heart and soul of the Games,” Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad Al Sabah told the athletes.

From weightlifting to wushu, rowing to rugby sevens and swimming to sepaktakraw, the Games will showcase elite Asian talent in 36 sports, with the first of 439 gold medals to be awarded in the women’s 10m air pistol team event today.

Much of the attention will be focused on the pool where Olympic champions Sun Yang of China and South Korea’s homegrown hero Park Tae-hwan are due to meet in a series of freestyle duels.

China has topped the medals table at the last eight Asian Games and is expected to do so again, while the hosts’ target is finishing second, above fierce rivals Japan.

China’s vast delegation includes badminton great Lin Dan and London Olympic gold medalist Yi Shiwen, while Japan expect great things from a swimming team that took seven golds at the recent Pan Pacific Championships.

Olympic champions Yang Hak-seon and Lee Yong-dae spearhead South Korea’s campaign for 90 golds on home soil. A gold-medal laden performance would be well-received in South Korea, where the mood has been one of grief and despair following the Sewol ferry disaster in April.

While relations remain strained between Tokyo and Pyongyang, North Korean and Japanese athletes showed no signs of tension as they filed into the stadium one after another, the Korean alphabet putting the delegations beside each other.

The North Korean flag was also flying at the stadium, a week after complaints from ultra-conservative groups forced organizers to take them down from the streets in the host city and other venues.

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