Self-driving electric shuttles will serve the upcoming Asian Games in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. (LONG WEI/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Hangzhou, along with five other cities in Zhejiang province, is ready to host a smart Asian Games, which will officially open on Saturday, said Chen Weiqiang, chief spokesman for the Hangzhou Asian Games and the Hangzhou Asian Para Games.
Chen was addressing a news conference on Wednesday at the Main Media Center of the Games. He was joined by Mao Genhong and Xu Deqing, who are the other spokespersons for the event.
"The Hangzhou Asian Games — the third Asiad to be hosted in China — is an Asian Games held in the new era. Many high-tech applications have been installed to deliver a smart Games," said Chen, who is also executive secretary-general of the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.
"We have overcome a lot of challenges and are now fully equipped to successfully hold the Games. All competition equipment and support and operation teams are in place," he added.
The Asian Games, also called the Asiad, is a series of athletic events held for participants from Asian countries. The competition is held every four years. The 19th edition of the Games was originally scheduled in China in 2022, but deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 12,000 athletes from 45 countries and regions in Asia will vie for 481 gold medals in 40 sports at 56 competition venues in Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Huzhou, Shaoxing and Jinhua. There are sports such as wushu and sepaktakraw that are representative of the continent and emerging ones such as skateboarding and esports, which are popular with the young people.
While preliminary matches of beach volleyball, volleyball, cricket and soccer began on Tuesday, the formal opening ceremony of the Games will take place on Saturday evening at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre.
For the first time, "online torchbearers" from around the world will together light the "online flame" of the Games during the opening ceremony, Chen said.
The digital torch relay was launched on June 15 in sync with the physical torch relay. More than 100 million netizens, who pass on the torch by shaking their mobile phones, have participated in the digital relay as of Wednesday.
"We've opened a new era in our preparations for the Asiad; it is the era of digitalization," Chen said, adding that smart control systems, enabled by 5G technology, internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence, among others, have been installed at major competition venues.
"Smart viewing" is on offer for those keen on having an immersive experience of the Games without buying a ticket, according to spokesman Mao Genhong, who is also deputy secretary-general of the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.
"Space is limited at the venues, so many of our audiences might want to watch the Games via online viewing platforms," Mao said.
Tickets for the competitions were so much in demand that most of them were sold soon after the online ticketing window opened on July 8. When offline booths opened on Aug 23, there were not many tickets left to sell, according to Mao.
Almost all the tickets released so far have been purchased, particularly those for popular competitions such as badminton.
Chen Yufei, China's top-seeded women's badminton player and the reigning Olympic champion, is a Hangzhou native. She has been very busy honing her skills, and hasn't got a chance to meet her family. Her parents are desperately hoping to book seats at the stadium to watch her play.
"The ticket sale is too hot. It is just hard to find seats," the player said.