Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post | Mon, 11/15/2010 11:45 AM | Sports
While Indonesia has been busy debating how much money should be spent and where the various sporting events should be held for the South-east Asian (SEA) Games, the Chinese province of Guangzhou began preparing for the 16th Asian Games six years in advance.
Guangzhou, the richest province in China, has spent 13.6 billion Yuan (US$2.04 billion) on the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games, slightly lower than the 2006 Asian Games, which cost host Doha $2.8 billion.
The money was used to build 12 new stadiums, to upgrade 58 existing venues and to build support facilities for the event.
Instead of building stadiums only in a few regions, the arenas have been arranged around the downtown and suburban areas of the city.
“At first we thought of building the stadiums in a concentrated area. But we changed our mind because we want to let people in different parts of the city enjoy the legacy of the Asian Games, for years to come,” 16th Asian Games (GAGOC) organizing committee secretary-general Zhang Guangning told China Daily.
An Asian Games Town is built in an area of 2.73 square kilometers, which comprise eight functional areas including Athlete Village, Media Village and Main Media Center, all of which were completed by Aug. 2010.
As the games host the biggest number of sports in the history of the Asian Games, including 28 Olympic sports and 14 non-Olympic sports, the organizers have organized 150 medical teams, 3,700 vehicles and a team of 60,000 volunteers.
A total of 4,280 technical officials were also appointed, of which 1,911 are international officials. Among the internationals, 506 are Chinese nationals.
As last minute preparations have tarnished the image of many countries in the past, including the recent India Commonwealth Games, the Guangzhou administration has been meticulous throughout the entire preparation process. Since Guangzhou won the bid to host the 2010 games in July 2004, the administration has been dedicated to improving water and air quality, dwelling conditions and transportation in the city.
At the beginning of this month the administration began providing free subway commutes and bus rides for the public, including on a new line from the Baiyun Airport to the downtown area.
However, when it became clear these transportation modes had become too crowded as a result of the policy — passenger volume hit 17.45 million per day — the free policy was revoked and replaced with a 150-yuan subsidy for each family in Guangzhou.
The Guangzhou Games are somewhat focused on the sustainable development and post-games use of facilities, a topic that became a hot issues for the Beijing Olympic Games, deputy GAGOC secretary-general Xu Ruisheng said.
“After six years of preparation, everything is ready for these games in Guangzhou,” Xu Ruisheng said Wednesday, ahead of the spectacular opening ceremony on Friday evening, adding that the 16th Asian Games had progressed through many stages.
Indeed, the Friday night opening ceremony was evidence that the organizing committee had done very well in their preparations, which a 14-month-long rehearsal schedule for the opening act.
At the 380 million Yuan ceremony at Haixinsha (meaning “sand in the heart of the river”), a boat-shaped shoal in the Pearl River sat surrounded by residential buildings and skyscrapers, including the 610-meter high Canton Tower.
With the concept of “taking the Pearl River as the stage and taking the city as the background”, the site for the opening ceremony was open, unlike others that have been held in enclosed stadiums.
Unlike a traditional parade, delegations from every country made their entrance via boat. A total of 45 pleasure boats, featuring landmarks from the event’s 45 participating countries, embarked on a 9.3 kilometer cruise on the Pearl River to the main venue, Haixinsha.
Fireworks exploded from the base of the city’s new iconic landmark, Guangzhou Tower, making the tower look like a blossoming Kapok tree, which is regarded as Guangzhou’s official floral emblem. The fireworks were set off at 960 sites throughout Guangzhou, including Haixinsha. Thousands of fireworks exploded around the Guangzhou Tower, and more than 40,000 projectiles were fired while 580 officials monitored the display.
Chief fireworks designer Christophe Bertoneau also played a major part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The organizing committee said the fireworks were “low-carbon” and environmentally friendly. “We have applied to the Guinness World Book of Records for fireworks,” said fireworks headquarter chief Zhao Weiping.
The same wushu athletes who dazzled onlookers at the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic stole the show again on Friday night, flying almost 80 meters above ground on steel wires.
The 160 “flying teens”, who were divided into eight groups, used their bodies to form various shapes, including mountains, fish, seagulls and flowers against a changing backdrop provided by huge LED screens for what amounted to a breathtaking 10-minute performance.
In contrast, a smaller group of 60 performed in Beijing by circling a globe representing the earth to the accompaniment of a 1,000-person drum assembly.
“It was unique, and the organizing committee was perfect. I tried to find something wrong with the ceremony but I could not. I am happy and appreciate what they have done for us,” said Iran team official Hassan Teimourtash.
IOC President Jacques Rogge praised the city. “Guangzhou definitely has the skill to [host the Olympics],” he told reporters Saturday. “Guangzhou has the expertise and experience from these games.”