The largest and most comprehensive Asian Games in history is finally happening in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou after being delayed, as so many international sports have been affected over the past couple of years by the coronavirus pandemic.
While it brings cheer to the athletes who are participating in the games, it is a celebration for the entire Asia and even sports fans around the globe as this is the first mega games being held without any restrictions for the first time after the pandemic.
No doubt, it is a sports event in Asia with global influence. Started on September 23 and concluding on October 8, over 12,000 athletes from more than 40 nations and regions scattered throughout Asia are participating in the Hangzhou Asiad, setting a new record in Asian Games history.
Powerhouses like Japan and South Korea, as well as smaller nations like Mongolia and Palestine, have sent their largest-ever delegations to Hangzhou, hoping to demonstrate their sporting prowess. China, the host nation, has the most significant representation, with 886 athletes.
Other sports not in the Olympics, most notably cricket, are included in the events. In addition, as part of an effort to attract the interest of younger people, e-sports, breakdancing, and sport climbing are also making their debuts in the games.
Significantly, the venues predominantly use green electricity, aligning with Hangzhou's goal to host a carbon-neutral Asiad. The opening ceremony also omitted the traditional fireworks display to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible.
All these events are expected to help boost sports exchanges, including joint training of athletes and the exchange of outstanding coaches, leading to greater improvement of athletes in performance in Asian countries.
However, the Asian Games is about much more than sport or exchange programmes. It is a bridge for communication, symbolising friendship, solidarity, and national pride. It also provides strength for unity and cooperation in Asia and the world.
We now that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises any sporting event as a vital enabler of sustainable development and stresses it as a compelling tool to promote peace, tolerance, and understanding, bringing people together across boundaries, cultures, and religions.
Sport is not limited to the practice of physical activities. It unites and inspires people collectively, which builds communities. Athletes from various countries and regions in Asia are fighting hard in Hangzhou grounds and competing with their best skills and spirit. It is not just a sports event.
This sentiment was evident in the words of Palestinian beach volleyball player Abdullah al Arqan, as he told Chinese news agency Xinhua, "Even though we know very well that our mission of medalling in China will not be easy, we are really chasing the honour".
Xinhua also quoted Syrian weightlifter Man Asaad as saying that despite his country’s difficult economic situation, it makes them “more determined to achieve and present a positive image of our country and its people”.
The fact is that, through the collective efforts of various countries and regions in Asia, the continent has achieved remarkable success in terms of peace and development in recent years.
At the same time, it also remains a fact that the overall environment for cooperation and development in Asia is facing unprecedented challenges with increasing signs of differentiation and division. When the international situation is complex and tense, Asia cannot be an exception.
Sporting events like the Asian Games have long been idealised to heal wounds, mend fences, and rise above differences among cultures and nations. The wish is that beyond competitive sports, the Games help the countries in Asia come together and move forward for a peaceful continent!
No doubt, the successful hosting of the Asian Games will make the world feel the appeal of unity and friendship. The Hangzhou Asian Games fully demonstrate the maturity and steadiness.