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Blaze of music and colour kicks off Asian Games

By EMN Updated: Sep 20, 2014 12:16 am


THE Incheon Asian Games opening ceremony kicked off in a blaze of music and colour on Friday, with “Gangnam Style” singer Psy billed to bring the show to a spectacular close.
The pop phenomenon with the world-famous dance will close the spectacle at a new stadium in the South Korean city, heralding the start of 15 days of competition with 9,500 athletes.
The show to mark the start of one of the world’s biggest sporting events began with a blast of high-octane K-Pop from boy band Exo, and a burst of fireworks.
Forty-five delegations from across Asia and the Middle East, including North Korea, will file past dignitaries including South Korean President Park Geun-Hye for a ceremony where the top-priced ticket seats cost $1,000.
The 17th Asiad includes the full Olympic programme plus Asian favourites like kabaddi and wushu, making for a packed schedule of 36 sports with 439 gold medals on offer.
Speculation rose on Friday that the Games’ symbolic flame will be lit by actress Lee Young-Ae, the star of the historical Korean drama “Dae Jang Geum” which was a massive hit across Asia.
Organisers were hoping the ceremony can create a much-needed buzz around the Games after slow ticket sales, just 18 percent early this week, generated an air of apathy.
But as the opening gala got under way, there were hundreds of empty seats in the stands of the 61,000-capacity stadium.
Many of the matches so far in football, the only competition to start before the official opening, have been nearly devoid of fans with barely 100 at Jordan’s win over United Arab Emirates on Thursday night.
“There are concerns that some events might be empty of spectators,” said a JoongAng Ilbo newspaper editorial on Friday.
“We urge the whole Korean people to pay greater attention to the Asiad and show support so that the games become a success.”
The mayor of South Korea’s third city has admitted that Incheon, which has built 17 new venues, is in financial trouble because of the cost of hosting the Games.
But Korean spirits will rise if favourite Jung Jee-Hae wins the Games’ first gold in the women’s 10m air pistol on Saturday, when full competition starts.
South Korea are looking to consolidate second spot in the medals table behind China, who swept a record 199 gold medals and 416 overall at Guangzhou 2010.
China’s juggernaut will quickly get into gear with double Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang in action against home favourite Park Tae-Hwan on Sunday.

Japan wartime flag dispute at Asiad


BADGES handed out by Japanese competitors at the Asian Games in South Korea revived antagonism Friday over their country’s harsh colonial rule of its neighbour.
The organizing committee of the event in Incheon sent a protest letter to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) over the badges which appear to show Japan’s wartime rising sun flag.
The flag is seen by many Koreans as a symbol of Japanese cruelty during the occupation up to 1945. The flag was changed after World War II.
Japanese field hockey players training at a high school in Incheon, just west of Seoul, handed out the badges as souvenirs to about 20 schoolgirls.
The triangle-shaped badges bear the initials of the Japan Hockey Association and its controversial logo.
Angry teachers at the school reported the case to the Asian Games organising committee demanding action, a school official said.
Many South Koreans consider the wartime symbol an offensive reminder of Japan’s 35-year occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
The organising committee, IAGOC, said it had sent a protest letter through the Olympic Committee of Asia to the JOC. “Our committee has asked the JOC to take action and prevent the recurrence of such an incident,” an IAGOC official told AFP.
“We are seeking a quiet solution because only a few Japanese athletes were involved,” the official added however.
The JOC insisted the badge has no connection to Japan’s militarist past.
“The badge represents the sun’s rays shining — a positive image,” JOC international relations director Yasuhiro Nakamori said. “It has no connection to any Japanese nationalistic emblem or Japan’s militaristic past. The JHA is affiliated to the Japan Sports Association and they have used the emblem for more than 100 years,” he said.
Last year, some Japanese football fans came under fire in South Korea after they waved the rising sun flag while cheering their national team during the East Asian Cup in Seoul.
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul are at a low ebb over disputes related to Japan’s colonial rule. South Korea feels Japan has not done enough to express remorse for colonial abuses or to compensate victims.

By EMN Updated: Sep 20, 2014 12:16:58 am