Incheon Asian Games 2014 open in 'Gangnam Style'

Indian contingent marches during the opening ceremony for the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea on Friday.
Incheon, Sept 19: Pop sensation PSY brought the house down 'Gangnam Style' as Incheon laid out the red carpet for over 13,000 competitors from 45 countries with an exhilarating opening ceremony to launch the 17th Asian Games at the main stadium here today.

Games Special; Photos

PSY's performance was the high point of the spectacular show as the world's second-biggest multi-sports spectacle after the Olympic Games was kickstarted with customary fanfare, including fireworks and breathtaking visual effects. Korean President Park Geun-hye declared the Games open amid thunderous cheers from a capacity crowd as dazzling fireworks lit up the evening sky.

The competing teams marched into the stadium in the final act of the evening. The Indian athletes trooped in after Iran with hockey skipper Sardar Singh leading out the smartly-dressed contingent. The Indians were attired in black blazers with the women athletes dressed in blue sarees.

The smiling athletes walked in waving the tri-colour. India have sent a nearly 700-strong contingent for the event and will take part in 28 disciplines. The flame was lit up by celebrated Korean actress Lee Young-ae, setting the stage for two weeks of action in the city - the second Korean venue for the Games in the last 12 years.

As is the custom, the event was divided into the informal and formal parts. It began with a welcoming performance, lasting close to 80 minutes, to greet the spectators at the 60,000-capacity stadium that was filled to the brim. It included a cultural heritage performance of Pungmul Play, performance by a cheering squad, a congratulatory video of celebrities, and K-Pop boy group EXO's performance to get the spectators revved up for the main event.

The session was divided into three parts - "Incheon, the magnet of dreams," "Incheon, where all of us become friends," and "Tomorrow, dreamed by all of us." Initially a video introducing the 17th Asian Games and a promotion video introducing the major facilities was displayed on the big screen.

This was followed by a display of Korea's traditional drums and cymbal-type instruments before emcees Kim Sung-ju and Youn Soo-young came on stage. Then, a cheering team formed by the city's children, including the squads Impact, Rainbow Air and K Sungsuk Jumping Angels took centrestage, performing to a remix of songs from past sports events held in Korea, including the theme song of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

"For You," one of the popular cheerleading songs used in Korea, wrapped up the act to get the spectators in the mood for the grand show that followed.

The second part of the opening ceremony consisted of two themed songs – "New Asia, a Song of Hope" and "Incheon". Exeuctive director Im Kwon-taek and artistic director Jang Jin orchestrated all the performances.

"New Asia, a song of hope" began with poet Ko Un reading "Song for the Asiad", composed by Kim Young-dong. This was followed by Soprano Sumi Jo first singing the song solo then a 10-vocalist choir joining her with a big screen showing Incheon citizens reading the latter part of the poem.

The song then changed into Arirang, a very popular Korean folksong often performed as an unofficial national anthem. Then "Incheon, a place for one Asia" showcased the host city as a bridge to unite Asia and open the future of the continent.

Two figures related to Incheon appeared on stage: Biryu, the legendary founding father of an ancient kingdom whose territory covered the Incheon area, and Sim Cheong, a girl in an ancient novel who dived into the sea as a sacrifice for fishermen who promised to give her blind father a huge amount of rice instead.

On the final stage of "Incheon, a place for one Asia," a ship returned to Incheon with a Korean opera singer, Ahn Sook-sun, singing "One Asia." The ship carried the hoop girl, actor Kim Soo-hyun and people from 45 nations. They were welcomed by Actor Jang Dong-gun and people of Incheon.

Gangnam style performer PSY and pianist Lang Lang then regaled the audience along with leading Korean musicians like Ahn Suk-seon, soprano Jo Su-mi, cellist Song Yeong-hun and violist Richard Yongjae O'Neill. After the cultural show ended, the national flag of host country South Korea was brought into the stadium to signal the formal part of the programme.

After the teams' marched in, Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah welcomed the participating athletes. Teams had been restricted to 130 members for the march past and the Indian marching crowd did not contain competitors whose events start tomorrow. It all ended in a riot of colour and sound with the fireworks lighting up the sky.


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