*The Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games flame was lit at the Liangzhu ancient city on Thursday, marking the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Games.
*In 100 days, over 10,000 athletes and officials from across Asia will converge in Hangzhou and five co-host cities in Zhejiang Province, to compete in 483 medal events across 40 sports.
*IOC President Thomas Bach and OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam heaped praise on Hangzhou's facilities and preparations for the Asian Games.
by Cao Yibo, Xia Liang, Hu Jiali
HANGZHOU, China, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Hangzhou marked the 100-day countdown to the opening of the 19th Asian Games with the lighting of its flame at a ceremony in the Liangzhu ancient city, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site.
The torch relay will take place in September and culminate in the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony on September 23.
The Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games Flame Lighting Ceremony at the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City park in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, June 15, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)
Despite the one-year postponement of the Asian Games, Hangzhou is prepared to host the greatest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympic Games, making Asia proud.
In 100 days, over 10,000 athletes and officials from across the continent will converge in Zhejiang Province, east China, to compete in 483 medal events across 40 sports.
ALL SET FOR THE GAMES
Hangzhou is the third Chinese city to host the Asian Games, following Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010.
Building on China's experiences from previous Asian Games and the 2008 and 2022 Olympics, the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC) has been making orderly preparations despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
All 56 competition venues were completed by the end of March last year, and more than 40 test events have been held since April to address any issues with playing conditions and infrastructure readiness.
The Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center cluster is arguably the most visually stunning of all the new venues built for the Asiad. The main stadium, nicknamed the "Giant Lotus" due to its lotus flower design, will host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as track and field competitions.
The center's most eye-catching venue is a butterfly-shaped building that combines an aquatics arena and a gymnasium.
Areial photo taken on March 30, 2022 shows a view of the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium and Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Aquatic Sports Arena, venues of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)
With a focus on the concept of a "Smart Asian Games," HAGOC has utilized cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence in various areas, including security, ticketing, transportation, and logistics.
Meanwhile, approximately 52,000 volunteers have been recruited for the Asian Games. They will assist at competition venues as well as Games-related sites, such as the Athletes' Village, the Main Press Center, training venues, and transport hubs, after receiving general and specialized training for their roles.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) coordination committee visited Hangzhou in March, after which OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam affirmed that "the city is ready now."
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach echoed this sentiment, stating that "Hangzhou has world-class facilities and is operationally ready." Following his tour of the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center cluster last month, Bach said, "Athletes and spectators can look forward to the exciting Asian Games Hangzhou 2023. They will be brilliant."
Photo taken on April 12, 2021 shows an interior view of the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Aquatic Sports Arena, a venue of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province. (Xinhua/Jiang Han)
ECONOMICAL AND SUSTAINABLE GAMES
From the beginning, the Chinese organizers planned to host the Hangzhou Asian Games in an economical, sustainable manner, with a focus on legacy.
A key step was expanding the Games beyond the city of Hangzhou to include the entire Zhejiang Province. Five other cities in Zhejiang Province - Ningbo, Wenzhou, Jinhua, Shaoxing, and Huzhou - will co-host several events, including sailing, beach volleyball, baseball, football, dragon boat racing, volleyball, 3x3 basketball, and sport climbing.
Areial photo taken on March 11, 2022 shows a view of the Fuyang Water Sports Center, a venue of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games. (Xinhua/Xu Yu)
Out of the 56 competition venues, only 12 are newly constructed. Hangzhou Mayor Yao Gaoyuan stated, "If the existing venues can be renovated to meet Asiad standards, there is no need to construct new ones."
Furthermore, to maximize their utilization, all venues were opened to the public after completion as part of initiatives to promote national fitness.
According to HAGOC, more than eight million people have visited the competition and training venues so far, many of which have become popular locations for mass sports activities.
A girl poses with Chenchen, Congcong and Lianlian (L-R), mascots of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, in the Gongshu Canal Sports Park in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, Nov. 9, 2021. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)
"The Hangzhou Asian Games have played a positive role in the construction of public fitness facilities and in boosting public participation in fitness activities for the entire population of Zhejiang," commented Li Qidi, dean of the College of Physical Education and Health Sciences at Zhejiang Normal University.
The legacy of the Asian Games not only provides sports facilities for the people but also improves the transportation system.
Currently, Hangzhou has completed a 516-kilometer rail transit and a 480-kilometer expressway network, ensuring smooth transportation during the Games and establishing a solid foundation for the long-term integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region, which includes Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui.
EXCITEMENT RUNNING HIGH
The 100-day milestone also marks the home stretch for thousands of Asia's best athletes as they intensify their preparations for the Games.
"Hangzhou 2022 will be my fourth Asian Games. I hope to bring glory to Chinese swimming on home soil," said Olympic champion Wang Shun.
Wu Yibing, the first Chinese mainland player to win an ATP Tour singles trophy, also expressed his anticipation for the Asian Games in his hometown.
"As a Hangzhou native, I want to win the gold medal right at my doorstep," said Wu, who won silver at the 2018 Jakarta Games.
Wu Yibing of China reacts during his first round match against Nick Kyrgios of Australia at Boss Open 2023 tennis tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, June 13, 2023. (Photo by Philippe Ruiz/Xinhua)
According to Fok Kai-kong, vice-president of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, they are preparing to send over 800 athletes to this year's Asian Games, the city's largest delegation since its debut in 1954.
"We hope that the number of medals can also increase proportionally. Everyone hopes to achieve the best results at Hangzhou 2022, held in our country," said Fok.
Overseas athletes are also eagerly awaiting the event.
"I'll continue preparing for the Hangzhou Asian Games. I can't end my gymnastics career without winning a medal for my country," said 47-year-old Uzbek gymnast Oksana Chusovitina.
Kyrgyzstan is set to compete in a record 24 sports in Hangzhou.
Aibek Abdymomunov, director of the Physical Culture and Sports Department of Kyrgyzstan, revealed that they hope to bring a team of over 200, including 181 athletes, to this year's Games.
"Preparations from our side are in full swing, and the athletes will go through all the training camps." ■
(Video reporters: Xia Liang, Hu Jiali and Li Tao; Video editors: Ma Ruxuan, Zhao Xiaoqing and Lin Lin)