Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium is lighted during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, Sep 23, 2023. Photo: Xinhua
In Hangzhou, China has, once again, dazzled domestic and international audiences not only with its futuristic opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games, its athletes' spirit of striving for excellence and Chinese people's solidarity in providing a sports feast for the whole Asia and the world. The country also succeeded in using the first major sports event to be hosted on its soil after COVID-19 restrictions to showcase its usual openness, inclusiveness and hospitality.
A glamorous ceremony, as well as the well-orchestrated arrangement for the Games also demonstrated China's strong cultural confidence, growing national strength and top-notch innovative capacity, defying cohorts of China smearing from Western media, said experts.
On the first day of the Asian Games, China grabbed 13 gold medals, out of 31 on offer, from rowing, shooting, modern pentathlon, wushu, and others. Team China bagged the first gold medal of the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou in the women's lightweight double sculls at Fuyang Water Sports Centre on Sunday morning, in less than 10 minutes after the start of the first match day.
Since the 2002 Asian Games held in Busan, South Korea, the Chinese delegation has claimed the first gold medal for six consecutive Asian Games for over 20 years.
Raja Randhir Singh, acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) , told the Global Times during a news conference on Sunday that he is extremely impressed by the Hangzhou Asian Games, especially with the opening ceremony, the coordination between the OCA and the Games organizers and the available technology like the contactless ID cards.
When discussing Saturday night's opening ceremony, Singh used the words "absolutely phenomenal."
"What I would like to mention particularly is something that is very new this time," he said. "Normally, you would have to walk around with your participant card and scan and wait for it. But not in Hangzhou."
With Hangzhou's contactless participant ID card, all participants can just walk through any entrance with it hanging around the neck, he said.
Topics of Asian Games have dominated Chinese social media, with netizens not only cheering the outstanding performance of athletes, but also hailing the futuristic, innovative and fantastic opening ceremony.
As the athletes from 45 countries and regions walked into the venue, the large floor screen outlined the shape of a regimental fan, greeting them with a unique Jiangnan flavor. Drums of osmanthus flowers were played with excitement, accompanied by Chinese folk music playing to cheer on the athletes. Meanwhile, the audience at the venue kept applauding the athletes from all over Asia.
A presentation of Chinese elements was then put on. This was combined with the traditional Chinese elements of "qin, chess, calligraphy, painting, poetry, wine and tea" being put into the props, while VR, AR and virtual imaging lanterns flew into the sky, symbolizing the unity of all Asian people.
After the breathtaking presentation showing the collision of the tides of China's national style, nature, science and technology, sports, and the tide of the times, the cauldron was lit jointly by Olympic champion swimmer Wang Shun and over 100 million "digital torchbearers."
The Global Times learned that the "digital torchbearers" online torch relay activity was launched simultaneously with the real torch relay. Before the opening ceremony, the total number of the online Asian Games "digital torchbearers" exceeded 104 million.
There must be some specialty if the event is held in China, Ebadi Yaghoub, a reporter from Saudi Arabia, told the Global Times on Saturday. Yaghoub said the opening ceremony thrilled him, especially the "digital torchbearers" part.
"China always come up with something unique," Yaghoub said, noting the combination of tradition and modernity in such an innovative way really surprised him.
The idea of 100 million "digital torchbearers" reflect the idea that the Asian Games is also closely connected with millions of ordinary people in Asia; the Games are participated by millions of ordinary people who jointly created this magic moment, Zhang Yiwu, a Peking University professor with expertise on cultural studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"The digital fireworks is amazing, it combines the Asian Games for all and the digital Asian Games together. The idea is good, but it is our technology that has made it happen," a Hangzhou resident surnamed Long told the Global Times on Sunday. "All those happened in Hangzhou, my hometown, as well as China's new tech hub. This made me really proud."
The hashtag "opening ceremony of the Asian Games" attracted 670 million reads on China's social media Sina Weibo as of press time. A netizen wrote that the Games not only embodies excellence, respect and friendship, which are the core of all sports events, but also represents the Asian spirit, as the region pursuits peace, stability and common prosperity.
Another said the opening ceremony fully demonstrated the beauty of Hangzhou, such a famous Chinese historical and cultural city, while also reflecting Hangzhou and China's tradition of hospitality, openness and tolerance, which is a trait of the Chinese civilization.
Some users of X, formerly known as Twitter, also gave credit to the display of digital torch and digital fireworks, saying that it is a way to save money and making global sports events more economically sustainable. Some even called on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to adopt similar ideas.
Solidarity, hospitality impressed
The spectacular ceremony even amazed some Western media, which had earlier bad-mouthed the Games. Reuters ran a story on Thursday saying "a glum mood hangs over China's Asian Games." It claimed that the new stadiums and other gleaming facilities "reflect misplaced priorities" when the economic and social atmosphere in China as well as confidence are at a low after the three-year pandemic.
After the opening ceremony, the agency published another story on Saturday, saying the ceremony "dazzles."
It reported that "in a modern take on the traditional lighting of the cauldron, a huge, digitally animated torchbearer "ran" the length of the stadium before settling to loom above the actual torch-bearer, China's Olympic champion swimmer Wang Shun."
Zhang said the significance of international sports event is not only to provide a great venue for athletes to compete with each other, but also to demonstrate the host country's strength to the world. "When some Western media are firing muzzles against China, such event, which makes China's dynamics, innovative ability and national solidarity on display, serves a strong rebuttal to their hype," Zhang noted.
Apart from China's comprehensive strength, the Games also conveyed to guests and the world Chinese people's hospitality, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Sunday. He said the wide attendance of foreign leaders and delegates not only shows solidarity among Asian countries, but also the wide recognition of China's role in international sports events and other international affairs, demonstrating those countries' willingness to coordinate and cooperate with China in promoting the cause of human progress.