Sunday, 5 October 2014

Asian Games end with enthralling cultural extravaganza

INCHEON: The 17th Asian Games drew to a close with an enthralling cultural extravaganza on Saturday after 15 days of high-voltage action at the end of which India managed to stay inside top 10 even as China extended its supremacy at the top for the ninth successive edition.

In Pics: Incheon Asian Games Closing Ceremony

The formal closing was done at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium by Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah after an impressive cultural show that kept the crowd enthralled.

The OCA flag was lowered and the their official hymn reverberated around the stadium to signal the end of the Games that saw competitors from 45 countries and regions vying for top honours in 36 sporting disciplines.

World sports powerhouse China topped the medals table for the ninth time on the trot with another staggering haul of 342 medals, that included 151 gold, 48 less than what they pocketed at home four years ago in Guangzhou.

India, second only to China in population, finished eighth on the medals table with a total haul of 57, comprising 11 gold, 10 silver and 36 bronze.

Four years ago, the country had finished higher in sixth position with 14 gold meals, 17 silver and 34 bronze. The closing ceremony was split into sections.

In the middle of the cultural show, the athletes from various countries came in a mixed group to be a part of the festivities and soak in the atmosphere in cool weather conditions.

This free entry of athletes from competing nations also went well with the theme of these Games, 'One Asia'.

The first part of the ceremony witnessed performances from 'Rainbow Choir', the National Dance Company of Korea, National Gugak Centre dance troupe and a demonstration of the traditional Korean martial arts of taekwondo, which was a medal sport in the Games, and a performance by the Serotonin club drummers.

While recalling good memories of the Games, the Rainbow Choir -- made up of 30 children of different nationalities -- sung a song delivering the message of peace and appreciation to their Asian friends.

The VIPs -- Korean Prime Minister Jung Hongwon, Kim Youngsoo, President of the Games organizing committee (IAGOC), Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Korean Olympic Committee chief Kim Junghaeng and the city mayor Yoo Jeongbok then trooped into the stadium guided by children holding Cheonsachorong, the traditional lanterns of Korea.

Seven women from National Dance Company of Korea, founded in 1962, performed a traditional dance "Chunsanghwa", which embodied a mythical maid or a celestial nymph flying the sky and warmly interacting with humans.

Then, 28 members of the National Gukak Center -- established in 1986 to keep the Korean traditional dance form alive -- performed the So-go (a small, traditional percussion drum) dance, composed of skilled dance movements to the beat of the drums to entertain the audience.

The giant screens set up at the stadium then showed the Games highlights, moments of victory and defeat, and the reaction from the spectators to sporting achievements.

Members of Kukkiwon, a breeding ground for the martial arts of taekwondo exponents, then put up a grand performance to regale the spectators.

Another video show featuring the welcoming nature of the people of Incheon encountered by the visitors to the Games hosting city, was displayed on the screens.

The entry of the host country's medal winners bearing the Korean flag was greeted with deafening roars by the crowd.

The Korean flag was hoisted and the national anthem sung by soprano, Im Sunhae.

This was followed by a drum beating show by the members of the Serotonin Drum Club just ahead of the entry of the athletes from different countries in a group.

After another cultural song and dance show, a video showing the contribution of the men and women behind the success of the athletes -- coaches, trainers, physios -- was shown.

The Samsung award for the Most Valuable Player, decided by the number of votes cast by the Games accredited media persons and officials of IAGOC and OCA, that was won by Japanese swimmer Kosuke Hagino (four individual gold winner), was given away.

This was followed by the official addresses by the IAGOC president Kim Youngsoo and the closing declaration by OCA chief Sheikh Al-Sabah.

The OCA flag, with a bright sun in a white background, was lowered and the flag of Indonesia, the hosts of the 18th Games, was hoisted to the strains of the next host country's anthem.

The torch and flag of the first Asian Games, held in New Delhi in 1951, and the OCA flag were handed over to the people's representatives of the next Games in 2018 to be held in Jakarta.

There was a brief dance and music show by the representatives of the next Games hosts.