China’s President Xi Jinping opened the Covid-delayed 19th Asian Games in the Eastern city of Hangzhou during a spectacular ceremony yesterday.
The Bahrain delegation to the Games was led by Cabinet Affairs Ministry Under-Secretary and Bahrain Olympic Commitee vice president Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa. Also present on the occasion were Bahrain’s Ambassador to China Dr Mohamed Ghassan Shaikho and BOC board members.
Spectators in the city’s 80,000 capacity stadium let out a huge roar as Xi was introduced and walked in to sit with visiting dignitaries including International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Syria President Bashar Al Assad.
The Games, delayed by a year due to China’s measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, will be the country’s biggest sporting event in over a decade in several metrics, with around 12,000 athletes from 45 nations competing in 40 sports.
After the Chinese flag was brought out, the first team out was Afghanistan, whose female athletes, based abroad due to sport for women being banned by the Taliban, walked together with their male counterparts.
Their flagbearers carried the tri-colour flag for Afghanistan which is used by international resistance movements and shunned by the Taliban.
Several teams were vocally welcomed by the spectators, but none more than the home team, whose athletes are expected to dominate the medals table once again.
The Games also mark a stark contrast to the cheerless Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics that took place under China’s strict zero Covid conditions, which lasted for nearly three years from January 2020 until late 2022.