Asian Games officially kick off today
The 17th Asian Games formally kick off today as the opening ceremony of the second biggest multi-sports competition after the Olympics takes place at the new purpose-built Incheon Asian Main Stadium in this South Korean city with the slogan 'Diversity Shines Here'.
The 78-minute gala ceremony will be telecast by TEN Sports from 3:00pm (Bangladesh time) from the Asiad Main Stadium, which has a floor area of 113,620 square metres and a crowd capacity of 62,818.
Incheon is the third city of South Korea to stage the continental extravaganza after Seoul (in 1986) and Busan (in 2002) and the port city is ready to host 45 nations during the 16-day tournament at 49 different venues. Around 9,000 athletes will be competing for 437 gold medals while 200 million people worldwide are expected to watch the Games on television.
The 2014 Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee (IAGOC) has strived to make these Games the most economically effective in history, which will be the stepping stone for Incheon's growth as a hub city in Asia and an occasion for all the Asians to celebrate peace and harmony. Despite lack of interest among Korean people and low ticket sales raising the prospect of swathes of empty seats at the venues, the organisers are confident the economical Games can put Incheon on the map as the city hopes to become an Asian financial hub, constructing 17 new venues and facilities including the 500-million-dollar Main Stadium.
With just over 2 billion dollars spent, the Incheon Games are spending only one-tenth of what China spent on Guangzhou 2010 and is minuscule compared to the estimated 40 billion dollars and 50 billion dollars spent on the Beijing and Sochi Olympics respectively.
"It will be a more economical and efficient Asiad than ever before and we hope that Asian Games in Incheon will be a role model for other countries seeking to host future Games," were the words from the chief organiser.
The mascots of the Games are designed to resemble three spotted seal siblings -- Barame, Chumuro and Vichuon meaning wind, dance and light respectively in Korean -- in accordance with the theme of the main venue. The mascots have been chosen as symbolic figures to the future hopes of peace between South and North Koreas, according to organisers.
The last Asian Games in Guangzhou had 42 sports to compete in but this time Incheon will have 36 sports, of which 28 are Olympic sports and eight -- baseball, bowling, cricket, kabaddi, karate, sepaktakraw, squash and wushu -- are non-Olympic sports while sports such as athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, football, swimming, table tennis, and volleyball are expected to be the most popular at the Games.
Of the 45 participating nations, Bangladesh will be participating in 13 disciplines -- cricket (men and women), football, hockey, kabaddi (men and women), shooting, gymnastics, archery, fencing, taekwondo, wushu, beach volleyball, golf and karate while Commonwealth Games silver medalist Abdullah Hel Baki will bear Bangladesh's national flag in the march-past of the opening ceremony where Korean pop superstar Psy, singer of the popular song Gangnam Style, will perform.