Philippines, 29 May 2024
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China favored to dominate 18th Asiad anew

The Asian Games, now in its 70th year since its inception in 1948, started celebrating its seven decades of existence on Saturday with the usual spectacular colourful ceremonies at the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex at the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta.

The star-studded opening extravaganza saw Indonesian artists Anggun, Raisa, Tulus, Edo Kondologit, Putri Ayu, Fatin, GAC, Kamasean and Via Vallen regaling athletes, coaches, delegation officials with a stellar art performance, which was full of Indonesia's diverse cultures, history, legendary folklore and traditional dance with an immense volcanic mountainscape as the storytelling canvas.

A day after celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the country's independence, Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared the Games open following a speech by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, reports Xinhua news agency.

The cauldron for the Asian Games was lit by Indonesia's first ever Olympic gold medallist, famous shuttler Susi Susanti.
And as in the past 36 years since its coronation as overall champion, China is again expected to flex its muscle towards embarrassing the 44 other member nations and crown itself the sports kingpin this part of the world.

The powerful Chinese contingent is dispatching 866 of their brightest athletes ? 421 male and 445 female ? to vie for honors and fame against their counterparts from the other parts of the region to once more show their superiority over them.

The Chines will try for another runaway overall win after having led the medals table in the past nine editions. They will be competing in 376 medal events in 38 sports.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy and Vice Premier Sun Chunlan attended the opening rites, standing up from her seat and waving to the Chinese delegation as the Asian sports powerhouse was led into the stadium by Rio Olympics taekwondo gold medallist and flagbearer Zhao Shuai in the athletes parade.
China sent a relatively young delegation, with 631 out of their 845-athlete squad participating in neither the Olympics nor the Asian Games.

The Chinese contingent also features 19 Olympic champions, including Rio Olympics women's volleyball MVP Zhu Ting, world's famous shuttler Lin Dan and swimming king Sun Yang.

The Jakarta Asiad is putting up 465 events in 40 sports, among which 330 events from 32 disciplines will feature in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Games will also showcase climbing and skateboarding, the two sports being added to the schedule of the Tokyo Olympics.

This particular edition will see around 10,000 to 11,000 athletes from 45 countries, who will compete in 58 disciplines. Indonesia will be hosting the Asian Games for the second time after the Jakarta Asian Games in 1962.

The 2018 Asian Games will, likewise, be a chance for Japan to test its preparations two years from now for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and give their officials the opportunity to gain some valuable insight into the organisation of the multi-sport event.
The Jakarta-Palembang Games, albeit on a smaller scale than an Olympics, have included sport climbing and karate on their programme and Tokyo 2020 organisers are keen to see how they function.

?We do think that the Asian Games will definitely be important in the run-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,? the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) said in a recent statement looking ahead to Jakarta.

The JOC have targeted 30 gold medals at Tokyo 2020, almost twice as many as their record of 16 set when Japan last hosted the Olympics in 1964 and again at Athens 2004.

To highlight the athletes parade, the North and South Koreas marched together under a unified Korean flag, just like that during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. They will also field joint teams in women's basketball, rowing and canoeing events.

The Koreans will, likewise, prove their second overall finish they fashioned out in their own turf in Incheon in the South was no fluke.

Indonesia, for its part, is trying to prove its readiness to host a sports event in the magnitude of the this year?s Asian Games amid fears of ensuring athletes and fans can get to venues through Jakarta?s traffic-clogged streets remains a challenge, the head of the country?s organizing committee said.

Erick Thohir, President of the Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee (INASGOC) and an Indonesian businessman and chairman of Italian soccer club Inter Milan, was brought in to lead the committee in 2015 amid concerns over a ballooning budget and whether some venues would be prepared in time.

?We are confident we can have the Asian games... now the challenge is more on transportation issues,? Thohir said in an interview at the committee?s Jakarta headquarters as he looked forward to the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 event.

Despite their desire to see how their athletes are placed two years out from their own Games, the strength of the team varies on a sport-by-sport basis.

Many of Japan?s top table tennis players, including 15-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, who is ranked eighth in the world, and Olympic silver medallist Maharu Yoshimura will not be at the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asiad.

Triple Olympic champion gymnast Kohei Uchimura is also skipping the event to concentrate on the World Championships in October.

Photo: The Jakarta Asiad flame.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.

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