China launched the torch relay for its Covid-delayed Asian Games on Friday with thousands of people lining the streets of the host city Hangzhou.
Fans waving miniature national flags packed into the area around the city’s West Lake several hours before the start of the launch ceremony.
A pair of top officials then ignited the sleek metal torch before a succession of national luminaries paraded it through the streets. The Asian Games starts in Hangzhou, a city in eastern China famed for its elegant temples, canals, and bridges, on September 23.
Hangzhou had been due to hold the Games in September last year but they were postponed because of China’s strict zero-Covid rules, which have since been abandoned.
The relay will run through 11 cities in the region, with over 2,000 people taking part, before ending up back in Hangzhou on September 20.
Participants on Friday, all clad in white tracksuits with red trim, included former swimming world champion Luo Xuejuan and Daniel Zhang, CEO of Hangzhou-based tech giant Alibaba.
“Lots of people were already here when we got here at 6:30 am,” said Hangzhou resident Shao Yan, 37. “I hope the Asian Games will be held smoothly and we have more of these kinds of activities in the future.”
Some in the vast crowds had come from farther afield, including Peng, a tourist from the southern island province of Hainan.
“I felt very excited after watching it,” said Peng, who only gave his surname. “It shows that our country is very powerful,” he added.
The 2023 Asian Games is set to be the largest edition ever, with 12,500 athletes from 45 countries and regions.
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