With the flickering flame, the Games ensue.
Following years of meticulous preparation and months of mounting anticipation, Hangzhou's long-awaited moment in the sun has finally dawned.
Nestled in the eastern realms of China's Zhejiang Province, the city stands at the precipice of a momentous occasion as it prepares to unveil the largest edition of the Asian Games this Saturday.
This extraordinary assembly will play host to a staggering 12,500 athletes hailing from 45 countries and regions. Their collective ambition will be channeled through 40 distinct sports, comprising 61 disciplines and 481 events, all in pursuit of the coveted glory that awaits them.
The Chinese delegation for the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games was officially set up last week. A total of 886 athletes from the Chinese mainland will participate in the multi-sport event.
Running from Sept 28 to Oct 8, the Games will largely be hosted in historic Hangzhou city but will also feature other venues in five neighboring cities including Shaoxing, Ningbo and Jinhua.
Smart, green Asian Games
For multi-sport events like the Asian Games, the competition between elite athletes may dominate the focal point, but innovations in making these sporting events a sustainable reality are worth the public's attention as well.
The Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee has set a goal to host the first-ever carbon-neutral Asiad.
Carbon neutrality does not mean not emitting any carbon dioxide but rather minimizing those emissions or offsetting through donations of carbon allowances, carbon credits, and carbon benefits to ultimately achieve carbon neutrality.
For the first time in the history of the Asian Games, the Hangzhou Asian Games will use green electricity for all competition venues.
At present, green power in China mainly includes solar and wind power. Hangzhou has completed 16 transactions totaling 621 million kWh of green energy, equivalent to saving 76,000 tons of standard coal.
From March until the year's end, all 65 competition venues and offices will be powered by green electricity.
Meanwhile, Xu Bin, deputy director of the event’s publicity department, said the games would be “as thrifty as possible”.
New venues were not constructed if existing sites could be renovated to meet Asiad standards. Out of the 56 competition venues, only 12 were built specifically for this event.
Apart from green energy, environmentally friendly technologies have been widely used in equipment, transportation and delivery services in the lead-up to the Games.
In a move to increase sustainability, a number of venues have adopted water recycling systems. For instance, thanks to a rainwater recycling system, the Fuyang Water Sports Center can save around 1,000 tons of water per month, accounting for 35 percent of its consumption.
The Hangzhou Asian Games mascots, whose fabric is made using digital printing technology, are also an innovative attempt at going green.
Auto-driving shuttle services are also available in the Huzhou competition zone.
For Hangzhou, which is dubbed as an enterprise and innovation hub, the Asian Games is a window to showcase the city's cutting-edge technologies, including big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
"We will fully utilize Hangzhou's advantage in digital economy to integrate innovative technologies throughout our preparations for the Asian Games to contribute to a successful, splendid and unforgettable sporting and cultural event," said Chen Weiqiang, executive secretary general of the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.
Another highlight of Hangzhou's efforts to host "smart Games" is the digital torchbearer program which allows any smartphone users to take part in the torch relay.
Organizers said the online digital torch relay has attracted over 100 million participants since it was launched on June 15. It will conclude with a digital light show at the opening ceremony.
"This is the first online torchbearer in the history of the Asian Games, a remarkable achievement for Hangzhou in its efforts to host a smart Asian Games," said Husain Al-Musallam, director-general of the Olympic Council of Asia.
Connecting Asia with rich culture
The Asian Games is a grand sports event and a cultural feast as well.
The emblem "Tides Surging" of the Hangzhou Asian Games is the first visual identity symbol revealed for the Games. Its fan-shaped design integrates elements such as the Qiantang River, Qiantang tidal bore, racetracks, internet symbols, and the sun representing the Olympic Council of Asia, fusing together the distinct culture of Jiangnan, or south of the Yangtze River, with contemporary vibrancy.
Hangzhou, known as "paradise on Earth" and the "House of Silk," was a key linking point on the Maritime Silk Road. And the silk elements of the city inspired the graceful yet flexible, fine yet smooth, gentle yet vibrant design of the Asian Games' core graphics "Meeting the world."
From the West Lake imagery in the "Shan Shui" medals, to the featured floral branches in the victory ceremony bouquet "Fruits of Triumph," and to the blue and white porcelain elements on the uniforms designed for the Chinese delegation, traditional culture can be seen everywhere, reflecting Hangzhou's humanistic beauty.
In Hangzhou, the government has been earnestly gearing up to host the Asian Games. Throughout the event, the Games Village will host a series of cultural exhibitions and performances to foster interaction and friendship among athletes from different nations. These captivating showcases will include cultural bazaars, artistic performances that embody the essence of Hangzhou, and a magnificent celebration to mark the 110th anniversary of the Asian Games.
There are various "Cultural Houses" where athletes are able to enjoy a cup of tea with friends, marveling at the intricate craftsmanship of fan-making, delve into the ancient techniques of traditional embroidery and porcelain making, and design and make their own personalized artistic seals. These "Cultural Houses" are truly enlightening windows showcasing the richness and beauty of the traditional Chinese culture.
Hangzhou residents also held a variety of colorful sports activities to carry on their enthusiasm for the Asian Games. In the spirit of the Asian Games, friendly games-themed activities have been set up in which participants will win prizes, including fun running and other activities.
More than 100 scattered and beautiful rural courtyards from the surrounding villages of the Asian Games venues have also been included in the preparations ahead of the Games.
As for the highly anticipated event, the opening ceremony, which starts at 8 pm on Saturday at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, will break the tradition of having fireworks performance, as it is sticking to a green philosophy in hosting the event, said Sha Xiaolan, the general director of the games' opening ceremony.
Instead, a number of new technologies will be used to touch the audience with the theme of "people, beauty and emotions". The breathtaking projections, depicting Hangzhou's past and present, onto the floor and background screens, the glass-free 3D images of athletic actions and the innovative lighting of the cauldron, which will involve a virtual torchbearer, will be among some of the showpiece moments of the ceremony, according to Sha.
The highlight of the show will see the sky above the stadium lit up by millions of virtual sparks, each representing the participants of the game's online torch relay, which will eventually form the shape of a person who is expected to descend to the stage and light the main cauldron together with the final physical torchbearer.
It's the first of time that such a method is being used to ignite the main flame of a major international sporting event, a method that has stood out from the previous routines and reflects the essence of sport, which is to involve people, the director said.
Hangzhou receiving a new push of consumption
Hangzhou is expected to see the "most intense tourist wave" in recent years during the Games, with over 20 million tourists, according to the city's tourism authority, with the Games also coinciding with the Mid-Autumn Festival and Golden Week holiday in October.
Already, Hangzhou ranks among the top three cities in China in terms of tourism popularity during the upcoming holidays, with travel orders on several online booking platforms up more than five times year-on-year.
The hosting of the Asian Games has increased international air ticket bookings to Hangzhou by more than 20 times compared with last year, and the number of hotel bookings around event venues has increased by more than three times compared with last year.
Tickets for swimming, diving, table tennis, badminton and other popular events of the 19th Asian Games are almost sold out, according to travel agencies, adding that hotels, air and train tickets in host city Hangzhou and surrounding co-host cities Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing and Jinhua are in short supply.
With the Games around the corner, the "Asian Games economy" is not only attracting more orders both at home and abroad, it's also expected to drive culture and sports consumption further.
In downtown Hangzhou, close to West Lake, a popular tourist attraction, mascots Chenchen, Congcong and Lianlian can be seen at nearly every turn – hanging on banners on lamp posts, on the sides of buildings, and behind glass displays in shops selling Asian Games merchandise.
Yiwu, a global manufacturing hub and export center for small commodities, has also seen a boost in its orders as the Games fuel enthusiasm around Asia, with some vendors of football items saying orders are piled up through October.
From January to July, Yiwu exported 4.21 billion yuan of sporting goods, up 24.6 percent year-on-year, according to the Yiwu customs authority. Exports of sporting goods to Asian countries increased 12.7 percent year-on-year to 1.42 billion yuan.
In 2021, the Hangzhou municipal authority estimated that its investment in stadiums, airports and mass transit projects for the Asian Games had driven up its GDP by 414.1 billion yuan, or 7.6 percent of total GDP during the period from 2016-20.
In the first half of this year, Hangzhou received 53.23 million tourists, up 64.5 percent year-on-year, and tourism income totaled 91.5 billion yuan, up 65.3 percent, according to the Hangzhou tourism authority.
The event is also lifting consumption in Hangzhou's surrounding cities. In the past week, searches for surrounding co-host cities Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing and Jinhua all doubled month-on-month. Zhejiang's bookings for bed-and-breakfast facilities rank second nationwide for the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays, online booking platform Qunar data showed.
Executive Editor: Sonia YU
Editor: LI Yanxia
Host: Stephanie LI
Writer: Stephanie LI
Sound Editor: Stephanie LI
Graphic Designer: ZHENG Wenjing, LIAO Yuanni
Produced by 21st Century Business Herald Dept. of Overseas News.
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