Saturday, September 27, 2014

Unity in diversity: 2014 Incheon Asian Games

First published in The Korea Herald:

The 2014 Asian Games, the largest sporting event on the continent, kicked off Friday for a 16-day run in Incheon, a metropolitan city west of Seoul.

The event, governed by the Olympic Council of Asia, brings together some 10,000 athletes for a multisport spectacle second only in scale to the Summer Olympics.

Korea has had the experience of hosting the Asian Games twice before ― first in 1986 in Seoul and second in 2002 in Busan, the second-largest city.

This will be the biggest Asiad ever, with 439 events in 36 sports and disciplines, and the organizers have pledged to stage an impressive event that will showcase Asia’s unity in diversity, with all 45 participating countries marching as one.

The official slogan is “Diversity Shines Here,” which represents and highlights the significance of Asia’s diversity in history, culture and religion.

As before, the powerhouses of Northeast Asia will slug it out for the gold medals.

China is the hot favorite to top the medal count for the ninth straight Games, and is sending the biggest delegation to Incheon with 899 athletes.

Fireworks rise over the opening ceremony of the Asian Games at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium on Friday. (Yonhap)
It hopes to use the Incheon Games as a springboard to launch the careers of future Olympic champions.

The country set an Asian Games record by scooping 416 medals in the previous edition ― 199 gold, 119 silver and 98 bronze medals.

It is likely to dominate diving, gymnastics, table tennis and badminton, while fielding big stars across many of the other sports in Incheon.

South Korea has set an ambitious target of 90 gold medals, though the host would probably settle for less, as long as it finishes above its fierce rival Japan.

South Korea has gold medal favorites in Park Tae-hwan for swimming, Son Yeon-jae for rhythmic gymnastics and Oh Jin-hyek for recurve archery.

It also has high hopes in shooting, fencing, judo and taekwondo, as well as team events such as baseball and men’s and women’s soccer.

North Korea sent around 150 athletes to the Games.

Tokyo has won the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics but Japan won only seven gold medals at the 2012 London Games and finished third in the medal standings behind China and South Korea at the last four Asian Games.

The Japanese are sending 716 athletes, with their swimming team expected to spearhead the gold medal hunt.

India, a perennial underachiever in global sporting events, is hoping to improve on its tally of 14 gold medals clinched four years ago in Guangzhou, while Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand will battle it out for the top slot in Southeast Asia.

Among the 45 competing countries, 12 have not yet won a gold medal and three have never captured any medal.

After the Games close on Oct. 4, the memory of the fierce competitions will soon fade from people’s minds, but what will remain in the minds of many people will be the spirit that athletes from diverse cultures in Asia demonstrate in the competitions.

Also check facts and statistics on Incheon Asiad here.