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GUANGZHOU — Two years ago, 2,008 drummers told the world with thunderous noise and virtuosity that Beijing was ready for the big party that was the Olympic Games. In Guangzhou on Friday evening, everything started with a drop of water.
Unlike the display of raw power seen during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, the southern city of Guangzhou displayed that region's distinctive character with beautiful and delicate performances that incorporated water and flowers during the celebration on Haixinsha Island in the center of the city to mark the beginning of the 16th Asian Games.
It is the second time a Chinese city has hosted the Asian Games — the first time, the capital hosted the event in 1990.
The Guangzhou Asian Games, which will run from Nov 12 to Nov 27, have attracted athletes from all 45 members of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
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The Guangzhou Asian Games have attracted 9,704 athletes, 184 more than participated in the Doha Asian Games four years ago and a new record.
The event will also break another record — the 476 gold medals up for grabs in 42 sports are the most ever.
Six new sports have been added, including cricket, dance sport, wushu and dragon boat racing.
"After six years of diligent preparations, the city of Guangzhou in the People's Republic of China is about to show us the fruit of all of their hard work and effort in
the form of a great 16th Asian Games, the biggest sports event in Asia," said Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the OCA during the opening ceremony that cost 380 million yuan ($57 million)
"Once again, we are about to witness Asia's best athletes battle it out over 16 days of intense competition while displaying sportsmanship and serving as ambassadors for Asia," he said before Premier Wen Jiabao declared the games open.