Yesterday, the 17th Asian Games (Asiad) had its opening ceremony at the main stadium of the Munhak Sports Complex in Incheon, South Korea. 45 nations of Asia will be participating in this summer sports tournament that is officially recognized by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to wish peace and prosperity throughout Asia through sports diplomacy.
The man who was in charge of the opening ceremony for the 2014 Asiad was the Korean film director Gweon-Taek Lim, who is widely known as one of Korea’s most respected filmmakers who produced globally recognized films including Chunhyang (2000), and Sopyonje (1993). His assistant was another renowned Korean filmmaker, Jang Jin, who is known for pictures such as The Front Line (2011).
The theme for the 1st half of the opening ceremony which is one of the most stunning spectacles in any major sports event was “Encountering the Dream of Asia”. While the music, performances and digitalized videos and other art works were often used to display aspects of the host nation’s culture, Incheon’s ceremony also carried out a message encouraging all of Asia to unite under a single banner.
One key part of the ceremony that many older Koreans expressed great enthusiasm for was the appearance of a little girl rolling a hoop across the main stadium. This was a reference to the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics where everyone remembers the iconic “Hoop Boy”. This time for the Incheon Asiad it was a “Hoop Girl” who represented the dreams of young child athletes who would dream of playing for their respective countries in future Asiad and Olympic tournaments. The girl who was selected to roll the hoop is in fact a young gymnast who hopes to represent Korea in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
One of the most stunning performances in the entire opening ceremony was a digital display of a wide ocean that was performed in the middle of the Incheon Asiad main stadium. The theatrical performance involved people dressed as different cultures of Asia and boarding a ship to Incheon, representing a unified Asia.
Many celebrities were there to celebrate with the athletes and sports fans of Asia. Actress Youn-ae Lee, who is most known for her role as Jang-geum in the Korean drama Dae Jang Geum was one of the people selected to carry the Asiad torch that will light the Olympic fire that will be burning throughout the entire performance. Prestigious musical guests were invited to perform for the opening ceremony also, including world-renowned soprano Sumi Jo, and pop stars JYJ and Psy.
After the performances, the athletes of the participating nations entered the main stadium with their flags, including the North Korean national team. 45 teams were competing in the Asiad, and the Korean athletes were the last to enter. Hyun-woo Kim, who is favorite to win multiple gold medals for wrestling was chosen to carry the Korean flag into the stadium.
The ceremony closed with words from Geun-hye Park, the president of South Korea, proclaiming that the 17th Asian Games have officially started, marking the beginning of the 19-day sports diplomacy that will hopefully spark peace and cooperation throughout Asia.