In the picturesque city of Hangzhou, China once again captivated audiences both domestically and internationally during the 19th Asian Games’ opening ceremony. This event wasn’t just a testament to China’s athletic prowess but also reflected the unity, spirit, and cultural strength of its people. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 restrictions, hosting such a prominent sports event on its territory demonstrated China’s enduring openness, inclusivity, and warm hospitality.
The ceremonious occasion was more than just a visual spectacle; it embodied China’s cultural confidence, its growing national significance, and an unparalleled innovative aptitude. Many experts commented that it was a powerful counter-narrative to the often critical portrayals of China in Western media.
On the commencement day, China claimed an impressive 13 gold medals from the available 31, covering various sports such as rowing, shooting, modern pentathlon, wushu, and more. Notably, the Chinese team secured the first gold in the women’s lightweight double sculls at Fuyang Water Sports Centre. This achievement is noteworthy because, for over two decades, starting from the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, China has consistently clinched the first gold medal.
Raja Randhir Singh, the acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), shared his admiration for the Hangzhou Asian Games. Particularly highlighting the ceremony and the harmonious collaboration between OCA and the event’s organizers. He was especially impressed by the innovative contactless participant ID cards introduced in Hangzhou. Unlike traditional events where participants would need to scan and wait, in Hangzhou, with these cards hung around their neck, they could effortlessly walk through entrances.
The opening ceremony was the talk of the town on Chinese social media. Netizens expressed their enthusiasm not only for the athletes’ commendable performances but also the state-of-the-art, imaginative, and mesmerizing ceremony.
As teams from 45 nations entered the venue, a massive floor screen formed the silhouette of a traditional fan, a nod to the local Jiangnan culture. The rhythmic beats of osmanthus flower drums resonated, backed by indigenous Chinese tunes. The crowd, in response, cheered and applauded the diverse athletes from all over Asia. The ceremony beautifully intertwined traditional Chinese elements like “qin, chess, calligraphy, painting, poetry, wine, and tea” with advanced technology, including VR, AR, and virtual imaging.
The grandeur continued with a striking display, encapsulating China’s rich heritage, nature, technological advancements, sports, and the contemporary zeitgeist. The lighting of the cauldron was symbolic, with Olympic champion swimmer Wang Shun and over 100 million “digital torchbearers” participating. These “digital torchbearers” were a part of an online torch relay activity, echoing the sentiment that the Asian Games isn’t just an event for elite athletes but resonates with millions across Asia.
Foreign correspondents, like Ebadi Yaghoub from Saudi Arabia, marveled at the unique blend of tradition and modernity in the ceremony. The concept of 100 million “digital torchbearers” was not just innovative but underlined the idea that the games embody the collective spirit of Asia.
China’s ability to juxtapose the ancient with the futuristic is evident, as the hashtag “opening ceremony of the Asian Games” garnered a whopping 670 million reads on China’s social media platform, Sina Weibo. Comments flooded in, commending the representation of the Asian spirit, the embodiment of values like respect, friendship, and excellence, and a reflection of China’s age-old traditions of hospitality and tolerance.
International platforms like X, previously known as Twitter, too acknowledged the inventive approach of the digital torch and fireworks. Some users applauded this as an economical and sustainable alternative for global sports events, with a few even suggesting its adoption for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
While there was skepticism from some Western media outlets before the event, post the dazzling ceremony, the narrative shifted. An article by Reuters captured the essence of this transformation, from a prior skeptical view to one of admiration.
Zhang, an expert, emphasized that international sports events serve as a platform to not only facilitate competition but also project the host nation’s capabilities and values. Events like these are potent tools, spotlighting China’s dynamic innovation and fostering national solidarity, effectively countering any adverse publicity.
In conclusion, the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou was not just a sports event but a celebration of culture, technology, and unity. China’s ability to seamlessly blend tradition with innovation, and its warm hospitality, was recognized globally. This recognition extends beyond sports, reflecting a broader appreciation of China’s evolving role in international affairs and its continued efforts towards human progress.