The 18th Asian Games that will be jointly hosted by two cities for the first time ever, kicks off on Sunday, with the opening ceremony at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Jakarta. The opening ceremony will begin at 5.30 PM IST, and will be telecast on Sony in India.
10,000 athletes and officials from 45 nations will compete in 40 disciplines in the Games that will be held between August 18 - September 2 in the twin venues of Jakarta and Palembang. The parade of athletes is likely to begin around 6.15 PM IST, with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra as the flag bearer of the Indian contingent.
The opening ceremony is expected to feature popular Indonesian singers Anggun, Raisa, Tulus, Edo Kondologit, Putri Ayu and Via Vallen. The ceremony stage is believed to have a mountain as its backdrop, accompanied by plants and flowers unique to the host nation. The stage, made by Indonesian artists, will be where 4000 dancers will be performing.
572 Indian athletes, about 200 of who are aged 18-23, will aim to give the country a better finish than the 2014 edition of the Games in Incheon where they finished eighth with 57 medals in all.
India’s build up to the competition has been messy to say the least, but the performance of youngsters such as Neeraj Chopra, Hima Das and Manu Bhaker gives India plenty of hope. Medals are expected from shooting and wrestling even though the competition is as good as the Olympics or the World Championships. That apart, the track and field stars, badminton players and hockey teams would hope to find themselves on the podium.
The competition won’t be as easy as the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast earlier this year where India had it second best showing, but it certainly threw up new talent across disciplines who have shown the potential to beat the best in Asia.