HANGZHOU: China staged a spectacular opening ceremony for the 19th Asian Games, mesmerizing athletes and spectators alike with dazzling cultural and lighting performances at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium here, last night.

The ceremony also attained a new milestone by replacing the traditional extravaganza fireworks display with digital fireworks with animation and 3D tools, in accordance with the Hangzhou 2022’s pledge to be the first ever carbon-neutral Asiad, reducing carbon emissions and using green energy.

The Hangzhou 2022 declared open by China’s President Xi Jinping, a year after it’s delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, also sets history as the largest Asian Games with the participation of 11,831 athletes from 45 countries, more than the 11,000 who competed at the Tokyo 2020 and about 10,500 expected for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

China amazed the spectators in the stadium and those watching on screen from various parts of the world, with energetical performances themed ‘Tide Rising in Asia,’ featuring the iconic Qiantang River and green mountains, significant to the host city.

The ceremony began with the opening performance named ‘Water in Autumn Glow’ as the Games opens on Qiufen, the Autumn Equinox of China’s 24 Solar Terms.

The parade of 45 countries competing in the Games began after the entry of China’s flag and national anthem, with Afghanistan the first to enter based on the alphabetical order, while host China’s entry during the parade drew loud cheers from the spectators.

The Malaysian contingent, participating in the Games for the 18th consecutive time, entered the stadium as the 22nd contingent lead by Chef-de-Mission Datuk Chong Kim Fatt, and flag bearers Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom (track cycling) and S. Sivasangari (squash).

As the contingent of 50 athletes and officials smartly clad in white shirt, navy blue blazers, beach-coloured pants and red tie (for men) entered the 80,000-capacity stadium nicknamed Big Lotus, the spectators greeted their entry with loud cheers.

Malaysia, represented by 288 athletes (188 males and 100 females) will participate in 22 of the 40 sports contested, with a target of 27 medals.

Soon after President Xi had declared the Games open, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) flag was brought in, followed by oath-taking by athletes and judges in front dignitaries, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and OCA acting-President Raja Randhir Singh.

Another highlight of the event was the lighting of the cauldron as a digital torchbearer, created by hundreds of millions of participants of the online torch relay, joins the running torchbearers in the stadium to create an eternal flame to ignite the Hangzhou Asian Games cauldron, inspired by the tidal bore of the Qiantangjiang River.

The 19th Asian Games programme features 481 events from 40 sports being hosted in 54 venues, mainly in Hangzhou, and five co-host cities - Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing and Jinhua. - Bernama

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