Hangzhou, 24 September 2023 - The 19th Asian Games opened to a colourful start in Hangzhou on Saturday. With a theme based on water and tide, which are integral parts of city life and promoting principles of simplicity, sustainability and cost-effectiveness, Hangzhou put together a spectacular opening ceremony.
Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Asian Games open at the ceremony that lasted over 90 minutes, launching a two-week sporting extravaganza that boasts more athletes than the Olympics.
The Qatar contingent was led by flag-bearers in triathlete Tamim Jamal Al Kuwari and dressage rider Maryam Al Buainain as they walked out into the 80,000-capacity Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.
After being delayed by a year because of China’s now-abandoned zero-Covid policy, more than 12,000 competitors from 45 nations and territories will battle it out in 40 disciplines.
Blending the realms of artificial intelligence and eco-friendly technology it was a truly unique opening featuring a breathtaking futuristic light show as its centerpiece.
After the traditional dance forms, China also showcased its advancement in technology, creating images of different sporting arenas which left the audience amazed.
Qin Haiyang and Yang Liwei were China’s flag-bearers. They have fielded a 887-member contingent for the continental showdown.
Qatar has sent a strong 185-athlete contingent, who will compete in 27 events: archery, athletics, basketball, boxing, chess, cycling, electronic sports, equestrian, football, fencing, gymnastics, golf, handball, jiu-jitsu, karate, windsurfing, squash, swimming, tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, table tennis, volleyball, 3×3 basketball, beach volleyball and weightlifting.
Qatar – which won 13 medals, including 6 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze at 2018 Asiad in Jakarta and Palembang – is hoping for its best medal haul ever. The nation’s strongest gold medal hope is from Olympic champions – Mutaz Barshim in high jump and Fares Ibrahim in weightlifting.
The handball and volleyball team and beach volleyball pair Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan are also strong contenders for gold.
On Sunday, Qatar’s spikers face Pakistan in the quarter-finals, while the 2018 gold medallists Younousse and Tijan take on Oman’s Haitham Al Shereiqi and Ahmed Al Hosni in the round of 16 at the Ningbo Banbianshan Court. Qatar’s second beach volleyball duo Mahmoud Essam and Abdullah Naseem are also up against a Chinese pair in the last 16.
The handball team will play their first Group B match against Hong Long at the Zhejiang Gongshang University Sports Centre, as they gear up to defend the gold they have won in the last two editions. Qatar athletes will also be in action on Sunday in swimming, tennis, fencing, esports and taekwondo.
Although the Games officially opened on Saturday, sports such as football, cricket, volleyball and table tennis had already begun.
The Games will be staged at 54 venues – 14 newly constructed – mostly in Hangzhou but also extending to cities as far afield as Wenzhou, 300 kilometres (180 miles) south.