Winners of the women's lightweight double sculls rowing event pose for a group photo on Sunday during the awards ceremony at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Chinese duo Zou Jiaqi (third from left) and Qiu Xiuping (third from right) clinched the first gold medal of the Games with a time of 7 minutes and 6.78 seconds in the final race in this rowing category. The teams from Uzbekistan and Indonesia won silver and bronze, respectively. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY
The spectacular opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games on Saturday in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, left the world marveling at the stunning combination of China's rich cultural heritage and its remarkable technological advancements.
The two-hour show, themed "Tides Surging in Asia", was a seamless integration of glasses-free 3D technology, augmented reality and artificial intelligence with the real world, which impressed not only athletes, officials and the 50,000 spectators at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, but also billions of viewers across the globe.
Raja Randhir Singh, acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia, was among the first to praise China and the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee for the breathtaking presentation.
"We would like to congratulate the organizing committee ... and the government of China for the wonderful opening ceremony," Singh said on Sunday at a news conference. "It was a spectacular ceremony, and we have been to many. This was one of the finest and the most beautiful opening ceremonies we have seen."
As the athletes from 45 countries and regions stepped into the venue amid the roll of drums and melodious Chinese folk music, the packed stadium burst into wild celebration, cheering for every team. With the interplay of Chinese and Asian cultures, the parade highlighted the vision of building a community with a shared future.
Singh, whose daughter Rajeshwari Kumari is competing in trap shooting for India, said the athletes would remember the Hangzhou Games for years to come. "They were very happy with the opening ceremony. It was perfectly done."
The lighting of the cauldron, which displayed the integration of the virtual and real worlds for the first time at an international sporting event, was undoubtedly the most glorious moment of the opening ceremony.
Scores of people in Asia and beyond watched with fascination as over 100 million sparks, each representing a participant in the digital torch relay, converged over the Qiantang River to form a "digital torchbearer".
The digital torchbearer then ran toward the stadium to light the cauldron along with Olympic swimming champion Wang Shun, a Zhejiang native and final bearer of the physical torch.
According to the organizers, the opening ceremony used green, zero-carbon methanol for the first time to light the cauldron, helping create the first carbon-neutral Asian Games.
The use of a high-definition screen, which was the size of nine IMAX screens, helped put on a dazzling digital fireworks show, which organizers adopted as an eco-friendly alternative to the smoky display of traditional fireworks.
The vibe was celebratory and exciting, but in a more sustainable way, according to the ceremony's creative team. Sha Xiaolan, chief director and chief producer of the ceremony, said the event surpassed the team's own expectations.
"What we did was more than what we had planned to do. ... Technology allowed us to be more expressive. It was probably the greatest integration of technologies, such as augmented reality, in any international event of this stature," Sha said.
Geoff Berkeley, chief senior reporter at insidethegames.biz, called the ceremony phenomenal. "It was a real spectacle," he said. "It was a digital art show and absolutely fantastic."
For Malaysian photographer Luqmanul Arif Abdul Karim, the ceremony was a feast for the eyes. "It was so cool, so great. I loved the digital show, very futuristic. I loved the traditional cultural performances too," he said.
Raed Abdeldayem, a reporter with Jordan's Olympic committee, said that China never disappoints when it comes to opening ceremonies. "China gives us something new every time. It was even more amazing tonight."