Floating athletes, silent streets launch Asian Games
Nov 12, 2010, 12:30 GMT
Guangzhou, China - China launched the 16th Asian Games in the southern city of Guangzhou on Friday with a floodlit flotilla of boats carrying the 45 teams of athletes along the Pearl River.
Each boat was decorated with spectacular neon-lit cut-outs of national icons, parading along the river past some 34,000 officials and spectators on the city's Haixinsha Island.
Riverside buildings and bridges were illuminated with specially installed neon and floodlighting, while a partially submerged stage was designed to make dancers appear to float on water in front of the main grandstand.
Premier Wen Jiabao attended the ceremony and was scheduled to declare the games officially open, while International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge was among the guests of honour on the island.
Fireworks were placed at 970 points in preparation for a 40,000-shot climax to the ceremony, the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee said.
About 12,000 athletes from the 45 teams will compete for 476 gold medals in 42 sports over 16 days in Guangzhou, where the host nation is expected to top the medals table by a large margin.
The Chinese government has minimized the risk of interruptions to its meticulous planning for the event by mobilizing more than 100,000 police, assisted by a similar number of security volunteers.
'The Asian Games is a common festival to all of the Asian people and also a sports gala that promotes peace and development,' said Gong Erzhen, the deputy chief of the organizing committee for the opening and closing ceremonies.
'Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee ... we are sure that the Guangzhou Asian Games will be a unique one which is harmonious, green and civilised,' the organizers quoted Gong as saying before the ceremony.
The organizers shipped in six pandas, recruited 600,000 smiling volunteers and mobilized five cloud-seeding planes as they made extensive use of China's experience in hosting the 2008 Olympic Games.
City authorities have ordered people without tickets not to enter areas near to the opening ceremony, urging most residents to watch the live broadcast of the event by state-run China Central Television.
They have imposed temporary traffic controls limiting private vehicles to alternate days and ordered the suspension of construction and major interior decoration during the Asiad, echoing similar measures in Beijing in 2008.