Honorable Park Geun-Hye, the President of South Korea, officially launched the 17th Asian Games at Incheon in a ceremony of vibrant colors and musical blaze on September 19, 2014. South Korean Pop sensation Psy was the center of attraction in a spectacular ceremony and he used music to depict the glorious historical events of his country until the present-day South Korea. In the scale of the grandeur, Asian Games are second only to the Olympics and the Incheon Asiad will witness more than 13000 competitors from 45 Asian countries, who will vie for superiority in the events of their choice over the next two weeks.
The participants were attired either in their colorful national dresses or comfortable tracksuits. As they paraded in the 61000-capacity stadium, they waved enthusiastically to the spectators present on the occasion. The most touching moment came with the appearance of the North Korean contingent. The grim-faced athletes from South Korea’s beleaguered neighbor received a huge supporting bellow from the crowd. The 3-hour opening ceremony culminated with lighting of the Games’ cauldron. This final act was performed by South Korea’s most famous face; the actress and model Lee Young-ae. She is seen in thousands of commercials across the region and the entire stadium cheered in unison as Lee lit the flame. Just as the rising flames from the cauldron began resembling a fountain of cascading water, the fitting finale came with Psy’s rendering of the last musical piece in his now famous ‘Gangnam Style’.
In addition to the full Olympic program, the Incheon Games will also features two Asian favorite sports; Kabaddi and Wushu. This will make the Incheon Games schedule a packed affair as a total of 36 sports are being organized with 439 gold medals on offer.
Indian shooters did their country proud by getting off to a good start on Saturday morning. Shweta Chaudhry opened India’s medal tally with a bronze in the 10m Air Pistol. World No. 46 Shweta surprised everyone when, she finished fourth in the qualifying round with a score of 383 after a series of 97, 94, 97 and 95 and a 13x. In the final, Shweta could only reach a total of 176.4, way behind the South Korean Jung Jeehae, who finished with 201.3 for the silver medal. China’s Zhang Mengyuan topped the field with 202.2 to take the gold. However, there was disappointment for other Indians as former World No. 1 Heena Sidhu and last Games silver medallist Malaika Goel failed to qualify for the final round. In the team event, Indians comprising Shweta, Heena and Malaika ended at the fifth spot with a score of 1134.
The best performance from an Indian came from the Lucknow-based shooter Jitu Rai, who has only recently won silver in the 50m Pistol at the World Championships and gold in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It was, therefore a grand double for Rai, who was seriously challenged by Vietnam’s Nguyen Hoang Phuong. But the determined Rai finished on top by accumulating 186.2 points. Phuong finished with 183.4 to take silver while China’s Wang Zhiwei finished third and took the bronze.
In Badminton’s women team event, India defeated Macau 3-0 to make an entry into the quarterfinals. In the first match, Saina Nehwal beat Wong Kit Leng 21-6, 21-4 and PV Sindhu made it 2-0 by beating Teng lok U 21-8, 21-9. Finally the doubles pair of Nelakurthi Sikki Reddy and Pradnya Gadre ensured the quarterfinal berth for the Indian women. But India’s men’s Team lost 0-3 to South Korea in the round of 16.
Indians could only progress to the early stages in Judo as Likmabam Shushila Devi defeated Mukaddas Kubeeva of Uzbekistan in Women’s 48kg category and Navjot Chana reached the round of 16 in men’s 60 Kg class by beating Abdalla Almaraghy of Kuwait. But both of them lost in the next rounds to the utter disappointment of the Indian fans. While Navjot Chana lost to Mongolia’s Boldbaatar Ganbat, Likmabam Shushila Devi went down against Japan’s Emi Yamagishi in the quarterfinal.