Torch arrives in Incheon, countdown almost over

Last Updated 17 September 2014, 10:50 IST

The Asian Games torch arrived in host city Incheon today, two days before the opening ceremony that will formally inaugurate the two-week competition featuring almost 10,000 athletes.

The torch will be stored overnight in the port city west of South Korea's capital Seoul before being carried on the final legs of its 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) journey around South Korea set to culminate in Friday night's opening ceremony featuring "Gangnam Style" singer PSY and Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

The football tournament began Sunday and Japan, the defending men's champion, already has posted a victory over Kuwait. The Japanese men play their second game against Iraq, which took silver at the 1996 Asian Games and opened the 2014 tournament with a 4-0 win over Nepal.

Among other matches, host South Korea plays Saudi Arabia, both of which won their first matches.

South Korea's women's team, who were third at the last Asian Games, play India, a day after North Korea, runners-up to Japan in 2010, opened their campaign with a resounding 5-0 win over Vietnam.

Local fans have been cheering for North Korea's footballers, despite ongoing tensions on the divided peninsula dating from the 1950-1953 Korean War that ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

South Korea bans open displays of the North Korean flag, but has made an exception for official Asian Games venues.

Athletes from the Far East to the Middle East are competing in 42 sports at the Asian Games, a key testing ground for many of them ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

China has sent the largest contingent of nearly 900 athletes and is again expected to top the medal standings. Tiny Brunei has the smallest delegation, with just 11 athletes.

Political rivalry is adding another dimension to the competition between the two Koreas, as well as between Japan and China, who are locked in a feud over territorial claims and interpretations of their shared history. Syria, Pakistan and the Palestinian team are taking part despite political upheaval at home.

(Published 17 September 2014, 10:50 IST)

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