The Immortal Oksana Chusovitina and the Grandeur of the Hangzhou Asian Games
Oksana Chusovitina, an emblematic figure in artistic gymnastics, hails from the heart of Uzbekistan. At 48, her perseverance and stamina in the sport defy norms. When most athletes consider retirement, she looks forward to her next challenge. With four Asian Games and an awe-inspiring eight Olympic participations under her belt, Chusovitina, unfazed by the ever-passing sands of time, remains a beacon of longevity in her discipline.
“I want to compete in the Asian Games to demonstrate what I can do,” she conveyed passionately to CGTN. Such sentiments, from a sportsperson nearing fifty, echo the relentless spirit of an athlete who refuses to be bounded by age.
The 19th edition of the Asian Games, also reverently referred to as the Asiad, stands as a testament to Asia’s growing prominence in the global sports arena. The bustling city of Hangzhou, which serves as the capital of China’s eastern Zhejiang Province, plays host to an unprecedented number of athletes, approximately 12,500, from 45 diverse countries and regions.
These talented individuals will clash in fierce but friendly competition across an astonishing 40 sporting events, further accentuating the Asiad’s reputation for grandeur and its propensity to push boundaries. Among these is Chusovitina, standing tall and indomitable, embodying the spirit of the Games themselves.
As the participants paraded into the Games’ core arena — the magnificently designed Big Lotus — an air of anticipation filled the venue. This crescendoed when Chinese President Xi Jinping officially declared the commencement of the 19th Asian Games.
Hangzhou’s preparation and infrastructure development have been nothing short of phenomenal. Raja Randhir Singh, the acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), after meeting with the Chinese president, commended the city. He described the sports venues as “impressive,” capturing the athletes’ overall sense of satisfaction.
Highlighting China’s dedication to the Games, President Xi emphasized the nation’s capability and resolve to present an exceptional sports event infused with distinctive Chinese characteristics, while also honoring Asia’s diverse and rich cultural legacy.
This amalgamation of sports and culture was evident at a welcoming banquet. Here, President Xi Jinping drew attention to the Asian Games’ uniqueness. With sports endemic to the continent, the Asiad fosters a vibrant platform where sporting prowess and cultural heritage harmoniously intertwine, enhancing mutual appreciation and understanding.
Setting the Gold Standard in Innovation and Sustainability
Hangzhou’s Asian Games have been at the forefront of innovation. A recently concluded two-week torch relay engaged over 100 million people, both in reality and in the virtual domain. The digital torch relay saw 2,022 torchbearers traverse 11 cities in Zhejiang Province, connecting millions digitally. This culminated in an unprecedented digital torch-lighting ceremony where a digital human representation symbolizing the online participants joined the physical torchbearers, exemplifying the seamless integration of tradition and technology.
Such inventive endeavors extend to environmental consciousness too. Aiming to pioneer as the first carbon-neutral Asiad, Hangzhou has introduced green initiatives in the Asian Games Village. Attendees can acquire “low-carbon points” which can be redeemed for rewards by adopting eco-friendly actions, from utilizing green transport modes to abstaining from plastic bags during shopping.
Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, lauded Hangzhou’s commitment. He praised the city’s determination to set benchmarks in sustainable game organization, carbon emission reduction, zero-waste strategies, and several other ecological endeavors.
A Legacy of Unity and Friendship
This is the third time China has welcomed the Asiad, following Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010. It’s a monumental occasion, especially considering this is the most significant international sports event after Beijing’s 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Many international dignitaries joined the celebrations, including Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” of Nepal. Impressed by the Asian Games’ ethos captured in its slogan — “Heart to Heart, @Future” — he underscored the importance of Asian unity for collective prosperity.
Such sentiments resonated with Cambodia’s Olympic chief, Thong Khon. Representing a delegation of over 110 athletes, he opined that the Hangzhou Asian Games exemplified peace, friendship, solidarity, unity, and international cooperation. It acts as a catalyst for cultural exchanges and mutual learning among Asian nations.
Even IOC President Thomas Bach, during his rendezvous with President Xi, emphasized the Games’ role in promoting unity, especially in these turbulent times marked by geopolitical strife. Bach acknowledged the world’s current challenges,