China wows world with breathtaking Asian Games opening (Intro Roundup)By IANS
Friday, November 12, 2010
GUANGZHOU - Water from the sacred rivers of all the particpating 45 nations was poured into a basin-like structure created by laser rays during the breathtaking opening ceremony to unfurl the 16th Asian Games in pomp and style here Friday.
After storming the sporting world by hosting a spectacular Olympics and topping the medals tally at Beijing two years ago, China Friday came up with another spectacle of a opening ceremony that was taken out of the main stadium to a riverfront for the first time in the history of any multi-disciplinary event.
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 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.
The highlight of the nearly three-hour-long opening ceremony was a boat parade of athletes and officials along the Pearl river, rhymed to the tunes of the “Happy song all the way along the river”, that cuts through the city of Guangzhou, which was earlier know as Canton.
Girls from the 45 competing nations carried the urns containing the ’sacred water’ in illuminated floats depicting each nation that wound their way across the sprawling city. They came to the centre-stage, where the converging of water produced an illumination of the flame that depicted the way of life for people of this region, who have for long depended on the Pearl River for their livelihood. Rivers, boating and music is an integral part of the people’s lives here and every bit of that reflected in the opening gala.
This was followed by an a depicting of invitation to the athletes of Asia from the ‘City of Flowers’, which is what Guangzhou means.
Chinese Premier Wan Jiabao declared the Games open.
The Indian flag in the march-past was carried by ace shooter Gagan Narang, who chose to battle fatigue and accept this honour even at the risk of hampering the prospects of featuring on the podium twice Saturday in the 10-metre air rifle event. Both the men’s individual and team events are scheduled on the first day of the Asian Games competition.
Drummers repeatedly built up a crescendo during the three-hour ceremony that depicted the tradition and culture of the province, which is located next to the Chinese region of Hong Kong.
The invitation to athletes from the ‘City of Flowers’ came through a ceremony that featured exciting drumming and a synchronous short video play on the sail shaped screens. In the backdrop, four famous performers sang the theme song “Sun Rises From the East.”
The performers danced with great enthusiasm as stunt performers exhibited their skills in the river outside the venue. More than 500 pace-setters, all students and volunteers, entered the guest-greeting avenue, running while blowing the fisherman’s whistle and waving their hands to the audience. They were followed by 126 guards of honour, who held knife-shaped flags.
A ship aptly dubbed “Harmony” then set sail to mark the start of the Asian Games, following the march-past of athletes.
The entire city was involved in the opening spectacle as tens of thousands of residents welcomed the Games. The athletes and officials from 45 National Olympic Committees sailing along the river in the 45-minute and 9.3-km boat parade named “Setting Sail”.
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.
Ten brass player took positions in each ship that set sail. Cultural performances with unique local flavour were held along both banks of the Pearl River, which takes its name from a stone isle and is China’s third longest waterway.
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.”
The opening 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 2010 Games were officials awarded to Guangzhou by the Olympic Council of Asia on July 1, 2004.
The organisers have added 12 new competition venues besides sprucing up subways, ports and city streets in creating a fabulous infrastructure.