With 100 days until Asian Games, Hangzhou feels 'alive'

The Games in Hangzhou were due to take place in September 2022 but were postponed by a year because of China's strict zero-Covid rules

Published: Jun 16, 2023 05:33:08 PM IST
Updated: Jun 16, 2023 05:38:44 PM IST

With 100 days until Asian Games, Hangzhou feels 'alive'Adverts for the Asian Games and shops selling merchandise were widespread in Hangzhou, with pop-up events to commemorate the 100-day mark taking place at a railway station in the city. Image: STR / AFP©, CHINA OUT

The Asian Games' flame was lit on Thursday to mark 100 days until the competition, with an elaborate ceremony at an ancient Chinese archaeological site that used the sun's rays to set the torch alight.

The Games in Hangzhou were due to take place in September 2022 but were postponed by a year because of China's strict zero-Covid rules.

On Wednesday, organisers admitted there had been "a lot of difficulties" but said that venues were ready and that preparations were in the final stage.

"I am very proud," an 18-year-old student named Ye told AFP in the eastern Chinese city on Thursday.

"(Hangzhou) just feels alive, and full of the atmosphere of the Asian Games."

The flamelighting ceremony took place at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Liangzhu city, about an hour from Hangzhou, and was attended by government officials and local media.

Against a verdant mountain backdrop, over a dozen "flame collectors" in long white dresses processed among the ruins, before one woman knelt beside a large concave mirror and used it to set a slim torch alight.

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The fire was then transferred to a cauldron before being passed on again to a flame lantern, with state media saying it would be used in a torch relay that starts in mid-September.

In downtown Hangzhou on Thursday, an outdoor screen by the city's famous lake showed a countdown to the Games' opening.

Adverts for the competition and shops selling merchandise were widespread, with pop-up events to commemorate the 100-day mark taking place at a railway station in the city.

"I'm very excited—finally they can happen, this time they will happen," said Ye, the student.

"Because of the pandemic, everyone is looking forward to our Asian Games," said a 43-year-old man surnamed Fu.

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"Finally, after waiting for a year, we are ready to see what kind of new look Hangzhou can bring to the whole of Asia. We are really looking forward to it."

He told AFP he was particularly looking forward to the football, adding that he hoped the beleaguered national team could "make a breakthrough this time".

A virtual torch relay kicked off on Thursday, state news agency Xinhua said—adding that over 21 million people were participating as "digital torchbearers" through various online platforms.

China's status as a sporting destination took a severe hit during the first three years of the pandemic, when snap lockdowns and travel rules saw almost all international events cancelled in the country.

The Games, one of the world's largest multi-sport events, begin on September 23 and last two weeks.

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