Asian Games gets off to ‘Gangnam Style’ start

K-pop boy band EXO perform during the Opening Ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon September 19, 2014. — Reuters pic
K-pop boy band EXO perform during the Opening Ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon September 19, 2014. — Reuters pic

INCHEON, Sept 19 — The Incheon Asian Games opening ceremony kicked off in a blaze of music and colour today, with “Gangnam Style” singer Psy billed to bring the show to a spectacular close.

The pop phenomenon with the world-famous dance will close the spectacle at a new stadium in the South Korean city, heralding the start of 15 days of competition with 9,500 athletes.

The show to mark the start of one of the world’s biggest sporting events began with a blast of high-octane K-Pop from boy band Exo, and a burst of fireworks.

Forty-five delegations from across Asia and the Middle East, including North Korea, will file past dignitaries including South Korean President Park Geun-Hye for a ceremony where the top-priced ticket seats cost US$1,000 (RM3,237).

The 17th Asiad includes the full Olympic programme plus Asian favourites like kabaddi and wushu, making for a packed schedule of 36 sports with 439 gold medals on offer.

Speculation rose today that the Games’ symbolic flame will be lit by actress Lee Young-Ae, the star of the historical Korean drama “Dae Jang Geum” which was a massive hit across Asia.

Organisers were hoping the ceremony can create a much-needed buzz around the Games after slow ticket sales, just 18 percent early this week, generated an air of apathy.

But as the opening gala got under way, there were hundreds of empty seats in the stands of the 61,000-capacity stadium.

Many of the matches so far in football, the only competition to start before the official opening, have been nearly devoid of fans with barely 100 at Jordan’s win over United Arab Emirates last night.

“There are concerns that some events might be empty of spectators,” said a JoongAng Ilbo newspaper editorial today.

“We urge the whole Korean people to pay greater attention to the Asiad and show support so that the games become a success.”

The mayor of South Korea’s third city has admitted that Incheon, which has built 17 new venues, is in financial trouble because of the cost of hosting the Games.

But Korean spirits will rise if favourite Jung Jee-Hae wins the Games’ first gold in the women’s 10m air pistol tomorrow, when full competition starts.

South Korea are looking to consolidate second spot in the medals table behind China, who swept a record 199 gold medals and 416 overall at Guangzhou 2010.

China’s juggernaut will quickly get into gear with double Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang in action against home favourite Park Tae-Hwan on Sunday. — AFP