The biggest ever Asian Games in history co-hosted by two cities hundreds of miles apart for the first time opened on Saturday night with a spectacular mix of cultural show and pyrotechnics on a 120-metre long, 600 ton stage at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno main stadium.
Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo officially declared the Games open from the stage built manually in the shape of a towering mountain by artists from Jakarta and Bandung after entering the venue riding a motorcycle that he was reportedly forced to take when his presidential convoy was caught in one of Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams.
Around 40,000 spectators packed the stadium, as over 2000 school dancers drawn from 18 high schools across the capital enchanted the audience with the traditional Saman dance from the western province of Aceh which is recognised by the Unesco as an intangible cultural asset of humanity.
The 18th edition was significant in more ways than one for the president of the Olympic Council of Asia Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, who was relieved and happy to see the IOC lift the ban on his country 48 hours before the opening ceremony, allowing Kuwait to compete at the Games under its own national flag.
In what was a repeat of this February’s internationally hailed unification efforts between South and North Korea and their Joint march during the Winter Olympics, the two nations, which are still technically at war with each other, again presented a unified front to a huge ovation.
Hundreds of miles away in co-host city of Palembang, a crowd of roughly 2,000 watched the ceremony on a big screen at the Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium.
Aside from almost all Olympic disciplines on display, jiujitsu, sport-climbing, roller sport and paragliding featured in the Asiad for the first time even as the OCA introduced canoe polo and e-sports as a push towards the younger generation.
The 845-strong Chinese contingent which includes 19 olympic champions is expected to dominate the Games for the 10th year in a row and the hosts have pegged their own gold medal aspirations at 16.
The 71-member Cambodian squad took part in the parade of nations in its dazzling attire with taekwondo star Sorn Seavmey as the flag bearer.
Cambodia will be among the 45 countries in the Continent taking part. In a pleasant variation from tradition, each country’s contingent was led by an official who carried their country’s nameplate while dressed in a Garuda bird styled clothes designed by one of Indonesia’s most famous fashion designers Dynand Fariz.
Cambodia at OCA
NOCC president and tourism minister Thong Khon who arrived in Jakarta with Secretary General Vath Chamroeun and several other team members on Friday attended the welcome ceremony held on the morning of the opening ceremony at the Games village.
In keeping with tradition, gifts were exchanged between the NOCC chief and the mayor of Jakarta. He later took a tour of the residential quarters of the Cambodian contingent.
Even as the Kingdom’s fencers, taekwondokas and wrestlers got down to the business of competition, the top administrators were busy attending the OCA General Assembly held on the sidelines on Sunday morning.
During the sessions, reports on Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were presented while Aichi Nagoya signed Host City agreement for the 2026 Asian Games.
Apart from IOC presentations, a report on the Inaugural World Beach Games next year in San Diego was also unveiled.