I’ve lived in Thailand for eight years and, during that time, have loved the exposure I get to so many unique cultural events. One such event is the massive Asian Games currently being held in Guangzhou, China. Opening ceremonies for the 2010 Asian Games are just ending as I write this, with participating countries streaming into the enormous Guangzhou sports arena.
The opening ceremonies have been broadcast live on Thai TV, as well as all over the rest of Asia, as these games are only second to the Olympic Games for sheer importance. The Asian Games are very important in Thailand, as we have 597 athletes participating. China has 967 athletes, North Korea 199 and Japan 722. Yet, had I still been in the US, I would have seen a short blip about them on CNN, nothing more, just another reason why I enjoy living in Asia so much.
Most striking about Guangzhou’s opening ceremony is how close in time it all is to the 2008 Olympic Games hosted by China in Beijing. Yet, only two years later, if you didn’t know any different, you’d think these opening ceremonies were at the Olympic Games they were that lavish and spectacular.
The ceremonies lasted four and a half hours and much of them took place on the Pearl River to celebrate Guangzhou’s seafaring history. Water goddesses, traditional Chinese sampans, synchronized swimmers, a classical pianist floating on a water platform, famous Chinese singers, actors and actresses, air-born acrobats – all were present at this incredible event.
Of course, some of the ceremony included fireworks, something China invented and still produces the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world. Athletes arrived at the ceremonies on 45 boats, floating down the Pearl River and dignitaries present included Thailand’s prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari, and of course Chinese premier Wen Jiaobao, who had flown back for a few hours from the 2010 G-20 Summit in South Korea.
Whenever I watch opening ceremonies of any sporting event, I love to see the athletes walking into the ring. With the 2010 Asian Games, the most interesting thing is, even though most are Asian with Asian features, this encompasses so many different ethnicities and cultures, that almost every country has a wide mix of peoples, with even a few westerners thrown in here and there.
What was even more fascinating, and quite telling once you get America out of the mix, is how certain countries are received in Asia. Athletes from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea got enormous shouts of approval and applause from the crowd, whereas in America, these countries are often still erroneously seen as ‘evil’.
Other countries that were popular included Macau, Hong Kong, and Chinese Taipei which, of course, are not really countries but territories belonging to China.
Overall, the 2010 Asian Games opening ceremonies were beautiful, spectacular and somewhat eye opening. That Asia and the 45 countries that participate in the Asian Games can be part of such a superb, world-class and, yes, exotic ceremony, would probably be surprising to many Americans, who often seem to think nobody can do it like America. Well, let me just say, this event equaled and surpassed anything the west has put on so far. In fact, Guangzhou, China should be very proud.
The 2010 Asian Games will be held in Guangzhou, China from November 12th to November 27th with 45 countries participating in 476 events in 42 sports with 3,989 medals awarded. I’m looking forward to watching them all.
2010 Asian Games, Guangzhou, China – Official website