'Heart to Heart': How Hangzhou Asiad boosts unity, friendship across Asia

September 23, 2023 11:17 PM AEST | By CGTN
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Oksana Chusovitina, a legendary artistic gymnast from Uzbekistan and a symbol of longevity in the sport, has set her sights on success at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

"I want to compete in the Asian Games to demonstrate what I can do," the 48-year-old, who shows no sign of slowing down after competing in four Asian Games and eight Olympic Games, told CGTN last week.

Around 12,500 athletes from 45 countries and regions are joining Chusovitina in Hangzhou, competing across a record-breaking 40 sports during the 19th edition of the Asian Games, also known as the Asiad.

After representatives of the athletes marched into the main venue of the Games – the Big Lotus – at the opening ceremony in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, on Saturday night, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 19th Asian Games open.

The sports venues and facilities in Hangzhou are "impressive," and the athletes have found them "highly satisfactory," said Raja Randhir Singh, acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), during a meeting with the Chinese president on Friday.

Xi said the Chinese government and people are confident and capable of delivering a spectacular sports event that showcases Chinese features and celebrates the charm of Asia.

At a welcoming banquet on Saturday, the Chinese president said the Asian Games, with many unique sporting events of Asia, offers a stage where sports and cultures enrich each other and vividly shows how Asian cultures learn from one another and beam with vitality.

'New standards'

When the nearly two-week torch relay concluded earlier this week, 2,022 torchbearers had passed the torch through 11 cities in Zhejiang Province. Meanwhile, over 100 million people had participated in a virtual torch relay via digital platforms.

In the first ever digital torch-lighting ceremony of the Asian Games on Saturday night, one digital human figure, a representative of the 100 million digital torchbearers, traveled from Qiantang River to the Big Lotus to light up the cauldron together with torchbearers in the physical world.

In addition to making use of cutting-edge technologies, organizers have put in place initiatives they hope will make Hangzhou the host of the first carbon-neutral Asiad. In the Asian Games Village, for example, participants can earn "low-carbon points" to win prizes through activities like taking green transportation and shopping without plastic bags.

The Hangzhou Asian Games has set an example for future Asian Games in many different ways, said Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), on Friday.

"It will also set new standards with regards to the sustainable organization of such great Games, carbon emission, zero waste policies and many other efforts," Bach said.

'Heart to heart'

The Hangzhou Asian Games is the third Asiad to be hosted in China, after Beijing in 1990 and Guangzhou in 2010. It is also the largest international sporting event held in China since the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" of Nepal, who arrived in Hangzhou on Saturday for the opening ceremony of the Asiad, lauded its slogan – "Heart to Heart, @Future."

"While Asia is rising, we must uphold Asian unity, we must connect our people heart to heart for shared and sustained prosperity," he said ahead of his trip to China.

Cambodia's Olympic chief Thong Khon, who leads the Southeast Asian country's delegation of more than 110 athletes to Asia's largest sporting event, said the Hangzhou Asian Games epitomizes the spirit of peace, friendship, solidarity, unity and international cooperation among people from diverse backgrounds across the region.

"It will further promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as mutual learning among Asian countries and regions," said Thong Khon.

That message was shared by the IOC president. During a meeting with Xi on Friday, Bach noted that the world is currently facing geopolitical conflicts and many other difficulties, but hailed the Games' role in boosting unity across Asia.

The IOC is committed to safeguarding multilateralism and opposes politicizing sports, and the IOC appreciates China for taking the right stance, said Bach.

"I believe it will be a successful and wonderful Asian Games that will promote unity and friendship in Asia," he said.

(Cover: A view of the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center, also known as the Big Lotus, in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, September 23, 2023. /CFP)


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