The pride of the past and the might of the future converging in the present in a spectacle grand enough to put any doubts on China’s ability to put on a show to rest – the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games here was as much about China showcasing itself in a post-Covid era as the much-delayed Games and sports themselves.
The show, lasting just over 100 minutes, was an extension of the all-pervasive technology seen all across the city that prides itself on being the greenest in the country with the tagline ‘paradise on Earth’. Not surprisingly, nature in all its forms, including greenery and harvest, figured heavily in the performances.
“All the technology, props and programmes will help us present the rich history and culture of Hangzhou and Zhejiang,” the ceremony’s chief director Sha Xialan has been quoted as saying and it perfectly sums up the confluence of past and future on Saturday evening.
The 80,000 capacity Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, or the Big Lotus as it is known, showcased China’s might and ambition across eras – from the traditional dating back to the 9th century to a sustainable and digital future that has been all-pervasive across the city. Even the life-size mascots at different places, realistic enough to give an impression of having a real person inside, are remotely controlled.
Hangzhou’s history was presented through lights and lasers projected on the floor of the stadium and on huge hang-down banner curtains, the entire evening tied together with the theme of water as the eternal nourishing force – ironic, given the constant rain in the city for more than two days now. But the extent of contingency planning can be gauged from the fact that a replacement venue within the same stadium complex had been kept ready, complete with an abridged version of the opening ceremony without some of the more dramatic elements, in case of inclement weather.
While the pre-show began as early as 6 PM, the loudest cheer was unsurprisingly reserved for the arrival of Chinese president Xi Jinping at 7.58 PM - and his officially declaring the Games open later in the evening - marking the official start of the proceedings with an opening performance titled ‘Autumn in Golden Glow’ followed by the Chinese flag with a backdrop of the Great Wall.
For a Games that prides itself on being “China and Asia having integration of culture” and “Asian people’s unity”, though, the ceremony also highlighted how politics and sports are inseparable – while every country including the likes of Afghanistan, Indonesia and Jordan were welcomed with loud cheers from the stands during the parade of nations, India’s entry was marked by a visible chillness, reflecting the current status of relations between the continental neighbours.
Jinping declared the Games open to the tune of vociferous drum beats and martial music, followed by the Athletes’ Oath and a breathtaking closing performance that saw the entire stadium turned into one huge three-dimensional canvas of light and sound. With an emphasis on being the first carbon-neutral Games, the traditional fireworks were substituted for a light show with each spark representing one of the 100 million participants of the Hangzhou 2022 online Torch Relay, together forming the shape of a person lighting the main cauldron alongside Tokyo Olympic gold medalist swimmer Wang Shun as the final torchbearer.
Hong Kong arrives with Xi
North Korea’s return
- I-League 2023-24 points table LIVE: Sreenidi Deccan on top tied with Mohammedan Sporting Club, I-League standings
- Vijay Hazare Trophy 2023-24: Darshan Nalkande’s five-wicket haul helps Vidarbha beat Maharashtra
- I-League 2023-24 Top Scorers: Here are the leading goalscorers after matchday seven
- AFC Cup 2023-24: Mohun Bagan SG to face Odisha FC in a do-or-die affair
- Olympic selection trials for shooting to be held at two venues from May 3