Curtains were today brought down on the 17th Asian Games here as this South Korean coastal city bid goodbye to the athletes and officials from 45 countries in a dazzling closing ceremony after a fortnight of high-voltage action.
An impressive cultural extravaganza, which enthralled the spectators who braved cold winds to make it to the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium, preceded the formal closing delivered by Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.
“I declare the 17th Asian Games closed and as per the tradition I call upon the youth of Asia to assemble in four years time in Jakarta, Indonesia, to celebrate the 18th Asian Games there in accordance with the ideals of the Olympic Council of Asia. May the youth of Asia ever celebrate the Asian Games in the spirit of brotherhood and for the good of humanity,” OCA chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah said to herald the end of the Incheon Games.
“Thank you Incheon, thank you Korea, thank you Asia,” he said while concluding his address to the cheers of the crowd before doing a ‘Mobot’ celebration in the style of British Olympic distance running champion Mo Farah.
World sports powerhouse China topped the medals table for the ninth time on the trot in the 36-discipline Games with yet another staggering haul of 342 medals, that included 151 gold, though 48 less than what they pocketed at home four years ago in Guangzhou.
India, second only to China in population, finished 8th on the medals table with a total haul of 57, comprising 11 gold, 9 silver and 37 bronze. Four years ago, the country had finished higher in 6th position with 14 gold meals, 17 silver and 34 bronze.
As part of the formal closing, the OCA flag was lowered and the OCA hymn was played before the baton was handed over to the host country of the next Asian Games four years hence, Indonesia. The Games’ flame was doused before fireworks erupted to signal the conclusion of the two-and-half hour ceremony.
The closing ceremony was split into sections. In the middle of the cultural show, the athletes from various countries came in a mixed group to be a part of festivities and soak in the atmosphere in chilly weather conditions.
This free entry of athletes from competing nations also went well with the theme of these Games, ‘One Asia’. Some of them, including Indian competitors in their track suits, also joyously participated in the drum beating part of the cultural show.
The first part of the ceremony witnessed performances from ‘Rainbow Choir’, the National dance company of Korea, National Gugak Centre dance troupe and a demonstration of the traditional Korean martial arts of taekwondo, which was a medal sport in the Games, and a performance by the Serotonin club drummers.
While recalling good memories of the Games, the Rainbow Choir -– made up of 30 children of different nationalities -– sung a song delivering the message of peace and appreciation to their Asian friends.
The VIPs — Korean PM Jung Hongwon, Kim Youngsoo, President of the Games organising committee (IAGOC), Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Korean Olympic Committee chief Kim Junghaeng and the city mayor Yoo Jeongbok then trooped into the stadium guided by children holding Cheonsachorong, the traditional lanterns of Korea.
Seven women from National Dance Company of Korea, founded in 1962, performed a traditional dance “Chunsanghwa”, which embodied a mythical maid or a celestial nymph flying the sky and warmly interacting with humans.
Then 28 members of the National Gukak Center — established in 1986 to keep the Korean traditional dance form alive — performed the So-go (a small, traditional percussion drum) dance, composed of skilled dance movements to the beat of the drums to entertain the audience.
The giant screens set up at the stadium then showed the Games highlights, moments of victory and defeat, and the reaction from the spectators to sporting achievements. Members of Kukkiwon, a breeding ground for the martial arts of taekwondo exponents, then put up a grand performance to regale the spectators.