HANGZHOU, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 19th Asian Games open on Saturday night at the lotus-shaped Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium in the capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.
The Games' opening ceremony reached its climax with an unprecedented digital cauldron-lighting ceremony, wherein millions of torchbearers transformed the digital flames into a digital human figure on the Qiantang River before it ignited the cauldron together with swimming Olympic champion Wang Shun, the last of six athletes who relayed the actual flame inside the stadium.
The Hangzhou Asian Games, postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marks the third time China has hosted the Asiad, following Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010.
Raja Randhir Singh, acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), praised the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC) during his speech at the opening ceremony. "You have done a fantastic job in preparing for the Asian Games. The one-year postponement due to the pandemic was unprecedented in OCA history, but your diligence and determination will bear fruit over the next 16 days and you will be rewarded with the most magnificent and successful Asian Games ever," said Singh.
On behalf of the organizers and the 65 million people in Zhejiang, HAGOC president Wang Hao extended his warmest welcome to athletes from different countries and regions across Asia.
"We hope that they will compete with passion, challenge personal limits, strive for excellence, and realize their dreams," said Wang, also governor of Zhejiang Province.
Gao Zhidan, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC), said the organizers are ready to present a magnificent Asian Games.
"Let's honor the Olympic spirit, strive for new records of Asian sports, and write together a new chapter of an Asian community with a shared future," he noted.
Before the cultural performance, athletes entered in alphabetical order based on their national or regional Olympic Committee names. Women's basketball team captain Yang Liwei and swimming world champion Qin Haiyang bore the Chinese national flag during the athletes' parade. The audience in the stadium rose and cheered as the Chinese delegation entered.
With the theme "Tides Surging in Asia", water played a central role throughout the cultural performance. It symbolized the memories of the Qiantang River, the excitement of sports, Zhejiang's spirit, and the pulse of the times, illustrating the connection between China, Asia, and the broader world.
Landmark buildings from various Asian countries and regions were also displayed on the vertical LED screens, promoting a message of co-existence and harmony.
Another notable feature of the ceremony was that there were no real fireworks. Instead, with 3D animation and augmented reality, electronic smokeless fireworks were on display.
The opening ceremony was attended by numerous state leaders and international dignitaries, including King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda of Nepal, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of Timor-Leste, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo of the Republic of Korea, Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat of Malaysia Johari bin Abdul, the Sultan of Brunei's representative Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, the Emir of Qatar's representative Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Prince Faisal bin Hussein of Jordan, Princess Sirivannavari of Thailand and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
From September 23 to October 8, the Hangzhou Asian Games will feature 40 sports, 61 disciplines, and 481 events. Additionally, 74 quota slots for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games are up for grabs across nine sports, including archery and tennis.
China is represented by 886 athletes in 407 events across 38 sports.