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  • Asian Games Open in Jakarta


    (ATR) Indonesian President Joko Widodo wows the crowd at the 2018 Asian Games opening ceremony, which focused on the country’s diversity and prowess.

    Joko Widodo, president of the Republic of Indonesia, "riding" into the Opening Ceremony (ATR)
    Widodo appeared in a video where he rides a motorbike to the Opening Ceremony performing tricks, beating the city’s notorious traffic, and stopping to wow an unsuspected child along the way. A man on a motorbike rode through the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium floor and into its basement before Widodo appeared in the Presidential box.

    The scene was reminiscent of when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared during the Closing Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics as the famous "Super Mario" character.

    Indonesia is hosting the Asian Games for the second time in the country’s history. Scenes from the 1962 Asian Games were interspersed during the beginning segments of the ceremony which harkened back to the event. Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said in his opening address that holding the 2018 ceremonies in the same stadium from 1962 was “a great legacy of the Asian Games”.

    “We are very happy and proud to be in your beautiful country and to make Asian Games history with two co-host cities for the first time, Jakarta and Palembang,” Ahmad declared. “We have waited for 56 years to come back to Indonesia for our Asian Games.”

    Eagerly Anticipated
    Ahead of the ceremony there was a palpable excitement from spectators streaming into GBK Stadium. Many ticket holders arrived more than two hours before the event and passed through an “Asian Fest” with traditional music performances and market stalls.

    Sheikh Ahmad, president of OCA & Joko Widodo, president of the Republic of Indonesia (ATR)
    Cheering squads from different countries around Asia drew the most attention from locals, with many taking pictures of rambunctious fans. A large group from China was the loudest, and many fans stopped to take pictures of people with the unified Korea flag.

    “My country after over 50 years is finally hosting the Asian Games,” Siska Apriyanti, 30, said to Around the Rings outside the stadium before the event. “It is important, we are excited, and we are proud. My country is host of the Asian Games!”

    Indonesia Asian Games 2018 Organizing Committee (INASGOC) President Erik Thohir welcomed the assembled athletes, officials and spectators to the “land of diversity” in his opening address. Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands in Southeast Asia comprising more than 300 ethnic groups. It is the world’s fourth most populated country, and has the world’s largest Muslim population.

    “We are all here to celebrate diversity to celebrate differences to celebrate humanity to share the energy of diverse nations to unite in harmony…the energy of Asia,” Thohir said. “We welcome Asia’s bright and promising future with the enthusiasm of the energy of Asia. We will create a peaceful world.”

    Kuwait, Joint March for Koreas
    Over 11,000 athletes will compete in the Games making it the second largest multi-sport event behind the Olympic Games. Days before the Opening Ceremony the IOC lifted the suspension on the Kuwait Olympic Committee meaning all 45 National Olympic Committees of Asia will compete under its own flag.

    The Unified Korean team walking into the Asian Games (ATR)
    North and South Korea marched into the Opening Ceremony under a joint Korean Unification flag. The two Koreas also marched under one flag during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics Opening Ceremony. A South Korean basketball player and a North Korean footballer carried the flag together, according to Yonhap.

    The two Koreas will fill three joint teams, marking the first time a unified Korean team has competed at the Asian Games. Korea will compete in women’s basketball, canoeing, and rowing in Indonesia.

    “We are making history today with the joint participation of North and South Korea teams together here today,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “Athletes now it is your time to shine. Represent your flag with pride and honor. You have tried hard for the Asian Games, so fight and never give up.”

    The second half of the Opening Ceremony was billed as a “celebration of unity in diversity, highlighting Indonesia’s wonderful cultures, vibrant landscapes and warm, welcoming people” according to INASGOC.

    Lighting the Asian Games cauldron (ATR)
    Earth, Wind, Water, Fire
    Following the speeches by dignitaries and raising of the Indonesian and OCA flag, the event had four creative segments. The segments were entitled “Water,” “Earth,” “Wind,” and “Fire,” which thematically traced the founding of Indonesia, celebrating its diversity, and culminating in the lighting of the Asian Games cauldron.

    A volcano overlooking the ceremonies doubled as the Games’ cauldron, representing Indonesia’s location in the proverbial “Ring of Fire” surrounding the Pacific Ocean. The final torchbearer was Susi Susanti, winner of the 1992 Olympic gold medal in women’s badminton singles. She carried the torch the final leg up the mountain to light the Asian Games cauldron.

    The first medal at the Asian Games will be awarded the first morning after the Opening Ceremony at the men’s changquan final in Wushu. The Games run until Sept. 2 and feature 40 sports, including all on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program.

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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