Asian Games 2014 opening ceremony as it happened

That's the end of the opening ceremony. It was tasteful and elegant and moving. Incheon can be proud of the show it put on. Join us tomorrow for our live coverage of the real business of the Games, starting at 5:30 am.

18.30 IST: Crowd goes nuts as Gangnam Style starts

Psy wants everyone to stand up and sing alone. Welcome to One Asia, he says.

18.20 IST: The Asian Games flame has been lit

It is actress Lee Yeon Wei who has honour. That was a secret until the moment she was handed the torch. The flame bursts into lift and firework fountains flood the stadium. All that is left is Psy to perform Gangnam Style, and also, fittingly, a song title Champion. Before that though, he Games' honorary ambassador, pop star JYJ, sings his hit "Empty".

18.15 IST: The Asian Games flame is in the house

South Korean archer Oh Jin-hyek and fencer Nam Hyun-hee took the athlete's oath in front while judges Kim Hong-lae and Shu Hea-jung took the oath for judges.

Five South Korean sports stars formed the relay for the torch. Baseball slugger Lee Seung-yuop began the relay and handed it to golfer Park In-bee, the former World No. 1. Retired speed skater Lee Kyou-hyuk then took over and was followed by former women's basketball player Park Chan-sook, a legend in the sport in South Korea. She was the national team's youngest ever player while in the ninth standard.

Tennis player Lee Hyung-taik, the pioneer of Korean tennis, he ran the flame up the stairs and to the cauldron. Fans stood and cheered and took photographs. There is plenty of dancing in the stands too, to the sounds of a Korean pop song.

The torch has been inspired by the red crown crane of Incheon. Legend has it that when the crane flaps it wings, it sends the winds of harmony across Asia.

17.55 IST: Let the Games begin

South Korea's president has officially opened the 17th Asian Games in Incheon.

The "Spirit of the Asian Games" is now entering the ground.

17.50 IST: Time for speeches

Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, the president of the Olympic Council of Asia, gets a huge roar when he greets the crowd in Korean. His speech is in English of course.

"This is your games," he tells the people of Asia. "So let us unite and share the excitement and passion of the next 16 days."

17.40 IST: All the countries are in the stadium

The march past is over. All 9,500 athletes are gathered in the stadium now. It is quite a stirring sight. Right now, anything is possible for each and every one of these competitors. They can all dare to dream. They can all hope. They can all reach for gold. Only tomorrow will their stories start to be written.

Some of the athletes even start to dance to the music.

17.30 IST: Kuwait has 254 athletes

That is almost half as many as India. As of 2013, Kuwait's population is four million. India's is 1.2 billion. Something is not quite right with those proportions.

17.20 IST: Sardar Singh waves India's flag as he leads the team out

The commentator expresses surprise that India has only sent a little over 500 athletes to the games. Clearly, he didn't get the memo from the Indian Sports Ministry.

Japan gets the hugest roar of the night so far.

17.17 IST: Iraq follows Uzbekistan

It must be awfully tough for athletes from war-torn countries to compete and win medals. For all of India's sporting mismanagement, it is rarely a case of life and death (Kashmir and some parts of the North East being exceptions). Hopefully some enterprising journalist will discover and disseminate some of these stories.

17.05 IST: Bangladesh gets a big cheer

Bangladesh are the defending Asian Games cricket champions. India did not send a team. Bhutan has the second smallest contingent at the Games, with just 16 athletes.

Some random trivia: the Blue Water Lily is the national flower of Sri Lanka. I did not know that. I also did not know that the UAE has no national flower. Given that it is in the desert though, that makes sense.

Somewhat surprisingly, Syria has sent a team to compete at the Asian Games. I wonder how they feel about what is going on back home.

16.55 IST: Time for the introduction of the countries

Nepal will be the first country of the blocks as the order is done according to the South Korean alphabet. For those of you who care about such things, Nepal has the world's only non-quadrilateral flag.

16.50 IST: South Korean flag is carried into the stadium

The flag is being carried in by some of South Korea's most distinguished athletes and achievers, including actors and athletes. Golfer Se Ri Park is one of them.

Now it's time for the Korean national anthem as the flag is raised.

16.40 IST: Hope for a bright future for 'One Asia'

More music, more impressive graphics. A ship is being build on stage around a band of opera singers. The ship represents Asia as one sailing together in to a bright new future.

The colours of this opening ceremony have been vibrant and striking, as in the tweet below:

16.35 IST

Dancers dressed as rail workers march across the stage symbolising the opening of South Korea's first railroad in 1899. There are hundreds of them, all wearing hard hats and their boots crunch on the stage.

The dancers eventually form the shape of airplane, delivering the message that Incheon has become a driving force in Asia.

The stage is also a giant screen. The use of technology is very impressive. A montage of images skating across the stage at the moment.

16.30 IST: The opening ceremony has so far been one of grace and beauty. It is very different to the dramatic and expansive Olympic opening ceremony in 2012.

Meanwhile here's a photo from the dance performance that started the opening ceremony

 Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony ahead of the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon Asiad Stadium on September 19, 2014 in Incheon, South Korea.

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony.

1620 IST: A dance symbolising the history of Asia

Women dressed in green and blue and men in beige dance across the stage. They are followed by a giant wooden fish on wheels covered in branches and green leaves and a wooden deer. It is the story of Asia.

The animals disappear and thunder and heavy rain follow as the continent breaks up into pieces. The dancers scurry from one side of the stage to the other.

Section two of the cultural performance is called Girl on a Ship. It is the story of Prince Biryu and Sim Cheong, Prince Biryu was a founder of an ancient nation in the port city of Incheon thousands of years ago, and Sim Cheong is a devoted daughter in a fairy tale who sacrificed herself to rescue her blind father.

It is being performed by musical stars Oak Joo-hyun and Chung Sung-hwa.

16.10 IST: Montage of the Asian Games Torch journey

It is strangely set to the sounds of Cold Play. Don't expect that after Korean opera. Now it is time for the main cultural performance - an ode to one Asia.

16.02 IST: Poetry and song fill the air

Ko Un, a well known South Korean poet, recites a poem called "Song for the Asiad."

"Sing of Asia's Incheon, where Asia's eyes and Asia's burning hearts have gathered, Gathered here with Asia's long history, with Asia's new friendship, we begin Asia's new history."

He is followed by Soprano Jo Sumi singing "Arirang", an iconic Korean folk song. It is the unofficial anthem of South Korea. It's haunting melody is beautiful opening for the Games. Sumi was joined by 919 other singers for the performance.

Here is a translation courtesy of a couple of verses courtesy wikipedia:

Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo
Crossing over Arirang Pass
Dear who abandoned me [here]
Shall not walk even ten li before his/her feet hurt.

Just as there are many stars in the clear sky,
There are also many dreams in our heart.

There, over there that mountain is Baekdu Mountain,
Where, even in the middle of winter days, flowers bloom.

15.58 IST: Children lead the way

Forty five children take the stage to perform Dreams with Children, a ring gymnastics kind of display. This was followed by meeting the ancient citizens of Incheon - a dance performance in traditional costumes. The dancers form a rectangle of blue and red light 0 signifying a blessing of a harmonious new start for Asia.

The president of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, has walked into the stadium as well.

15.52 IST: Fireworks light up the Incheon sky

Fireworks have lit up the night sky in Incheon as the spectators are greeted by a video message describing Incheon as a city that is central driving force in Asia.

15.45: India Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishes India luck

15.35 IST: Diversity shines here

That is the motto of these Asian Games. Sixty thousand people have thronged the Incheon Asiad main stadium for the opening ceremony. Japan and China are the only two countries to top the medals table in these Games. Japan did it for the first nine Asiads after which China took over. In 2010, China won a staggering 199 gold medals. India won 14.

14.45 IST: Get ready for Gangam Style singer Psy at Asian Games opening ceremony

Gangnam Style" singer Psy headlines today's Incheon Asian Games opening ceremony on as one of the world's biggest sports events kicks off in a blaze of music and colour.

The pop phenomenon with the world-famous dance will close a lavish spectacle at a new stadium in the South Korean city, heralding the start of 15 days of competition with 9,500 athletes.

Representational Image. AFP

Representational Image. AFP

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 will hope the ceremony can create a much-needed buzz around the Games after slow ticket sales, just 18% early this week, created an air of apathy.

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 Joong Ang 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.

This week's final build-up has been rocky with two alleged cases of sexual harassment by visiting teams, one of which prompted the expulsion of an Iranian official.

"I hope that over the next 16 days our athletes and you will participate with goodwill and (appropriate) behaviour," Olympic Council of Asia chief Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah told a meeting of the body's executive board on Friday.

The executive decided that Indonesia will host the next Asian Games in 2018.

North Korea's presence has also been a distraction and organisers had to take down the communist state's flag from venue neighbourhoods after complaints from anti-Pyongyang protesters.

14.30 IST: Get ready for the 2014 Asian Games

About 9,500 000 athletes from the 45 OCA member states have descended on Incheon on South Korea, home of the 2014 Asian Games. In total, 439 medals are up for grabs from 36 sports.

Incheon is the third South Korean city to host the Games, after Seoul and Busan. The Games cost approximately US$1.62 billion, with the Incheon government paying for roughly 79 percent and the Korean Government covering the rest.

Hockey captain Sardar Singh will be India's flag bearer for the opening ceremomy

However, ticket sales have been sluggish for the Games, according to Reuters. While fans are flocking to grab tickets for rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae and badminton star Lee Yong-dae's events, sales for the football competition were just seven percent and athletics eight percent, IAGOC official Lee Jun-sung told Reuters by telephone.

"We see a huge gap in sales between popular and less-popular sports," Lee said. "Although we are putting all our efforts into selling tickets with lower prices, promotional events, and package deals, it is hard to attract the crowds."

Updated Date: Sep 19, 2014 18:46 PM

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