The two-week Asian Games featuring 12,500 participants from 45 nations and territories have completed their first week in China.
The opening ceremony in the packed 80,000-seat Olympic Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou featured electronic flash, 3D animations and a virtual torchbearer.
Many of the 481 events offer a chance for smaller delegations to win medals, which is often impossible at the Olympics. The regional fare includes dragon boat racing, sepaktakraw — sometimes called “kick volleyball” — wushu, a Chinese martial art, and kabaddi, a popular contact sport on the Indian subcontinent.
Add to this a long list of what organizers call “mind sports” from bridge to chess to xiangqi (Chinese chess) to esports like League of Legends.
South Korea’s League of Legends team won not only the gold medal but also an exemption from military service at home. In South Korea, the law exempts athletes, classical and traditional musicians, and ballet and other dancers from military service if they have obtained top prizes in certain competitions and are assessed to have enhanced national prestige.
The youngest member of the nearly 900-strong delegation from China, a 13-year-old skateboarder, is going home with a gold medal in women’s street skateboarding. Cui Chenxi is already planning for next year’s Paris Olympics.
Nine sports at the Asian Games offer qualification spots for the Olympics — archery, artistic swimming, boxing, breaking, hockey, modern pentathlon, sailing, tennis, and water polo.