Colours, stunts, and fireworks — a dazzling opening to Asian Games

The opening ceremony was packed with colour and energy as Indonesia showed its young face to the world.

India's flag-bearer Neeraj Chopra leads the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony. Photo: PTI

‘Is that really our President? Did he really do those stunts?’

Those were the little questions that popped up in many heads here as Indonesia President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo appeared to arrive on a bike for the opening ceremony of the 18th Asian Games after performing a few little stunts on the way to the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Saturday evening.

It did not matter but it sent an apt signal with ‘Energy of Asia’ being the theme of the Asiad, which began in Jakarta and Palembang, as Indonesia showed its young face to the world.

The opening ceremony was certainly packed with colour and energy and for a few minutes Widodo even danced in the President’s box as singer Via Vallen belted out the Games’ official song ‘Reach for the stars’ which showcased dangdut, the host country’s hugely popular genre of music.

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India, which hosted the first Asiad in New Delhi in 1951, showed its young face, too, at the parade of nations with 20-year-old javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the country’s first-ever world champion in athletics, carrying the national flag as his team-mates, all in dashing blue suits, marched in to a loud applause.

Fireworks explode over the Gelora Bung Karno main stadium during the opening ceremony in Jakarta.   -  AFP

 

The two Koreas, North and South, entered the stadium under a unified flag, the first since the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, while Iraq made history with its shooter Elaheh Ahmadi carrying the flag, its first woman to get the honour at the Asiad.

SUSANTI LIGHTS FLAME

Susi Susanti, the women’s singles champion when badminton made its Olympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, lit the Games’ flame, which in fact appeared to be a fiery cauldron, and a little later, fireworks lit up the night sky.

IN PHOTOS: The Opening Ceremony

The Asiad, the biggest Games after the Olympics and which features a continent that holds two thirds of the world’s population, has attracted around 11,000 athletes this time.

Earlier, hundreds of dancers appeared to dance in the sea and a little later, the sea turned rough to represent the discord and conflict among the early people of Indonesia.

The opening ceremony also showed the beauty and greenery of Indonesia with lovely waterfalls making for a delightful setting. There was delightful music, too, from Indonesian stars, like Anggum Sasmi, which made the crowd dance in glee.

The serious business of sport officially begins on Sunday.