One Asia is Incheon's call

Last Updated 19 September 2014, 18:33 IST

South Korea on Friday threw the 17th Asian Games open at a simple ceremony, presenting its past, present and the idea of a one Asia.

Marked by the customary fireworks, LED lights, dance routines and performances from local pop stars, South Korea showed its rise in the continent as an economic power while at the same time delivering a key message of friendship and unity.

Shorn of grandeur that one witnessed at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Guangzhou Asiad four years ago, Korea still drew attention of the audience, the poem ‘Song for the Asiad’, penned by the revered poet Ko Un, and sung magically by soprano artist Sumi Jo, receiving a thunderous applause.

Directed by Jang Jin, the ceremony started with the talented Kim Min, a rhythmic gymnast training for the Tokyo Olympics 2020, from Jang Dangyu, recollecting the year 1988 when Seoul announced itself to the world with the successful staging of the Olympics.

The flashback video of the boy rolling a hoop then was played on the screen, Korea once again trying to use sports as a powerful tool to spread the message of peace and harmony. That moment then proceeded to the main theme of the opening ceremony — one Asia, the future we meet today.

Actors dressed as postman, railway workers and flight attendants highlighted the major revolutions undergone by Korea before people from all the 45 participating countries were shown on LED screens mounted on a ship.

The video clip with people from the continent in one boat showed the journey Korea wishes in the future, not its own development but the continent as a whole. However, with Incheon keeping its budget extremely tight, the ceremony lacked in entertainment value, appearing flat at times. 

After the athletes and officials from 45 countries marched in, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye declared the event open. 

The Games flame was lit by actress Lee Young Ae which was then followed by the most anticipated performance of a chilly evening at the Asiad Main Stadium — Psy. The global pop star first churned out his ‘Gentleman’ hit before getting everyone swing to the smash hit ‘Gangnam Style.’ The suit-wearing star got the crowd and athletes swinging, laying the climax to a fine evening.

Warm welcome

North Korea’s athletes got a rousing welcome at the ceremony as South Korean fans put aside their bitter rivalry and cheered them warmly, adds AFP. The two countries are technically still at war, and a recent spike in tensions prompted speculation about what kind of reception the North’s delegation would get at the gala launch of the 17th Asiad.

The crowd in the 61,000-seat stadium bellowed their approval as the North made their way around the stadium, dressed in pristine white blazers and sharp blue trousers.But the enthusiasm was not reciprocated — unlike other teams who beamed and took selfies, the North’s athletes and officials managed only the slightest of grins as they paraded round the ground.

(Published 19 September 2014, 18:33 IST)

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