Performers and mascots of the Hangzhou Asian Games dance during the closing ceremony on Sunday. (Wei Xiaohao/China Daily)
Amid a celebration of athletic feats, friendship and solidarity, the curtains came down on the Hangzhou Asian Games on Sunday to resounding global acclaim.
After 20 days of world-class sporting action, the 19th Asian Games bid farewell to participants in a memorable and touching ceremony at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium on Sunday night. As Premier Li Qiang witnessed the event, the Olympic Council of Asia's acting president Raja Randhir Singh announced the Games closed.
Themed "Enduring Memories of Hangzhou", the closing ceremony kicked off with a show celebrating the reunion of Asian youths against a backdrop of surging waves projected onto a giant screen at the 80,000-seat stadium.
The track and field venue was transformed into a lush garden. Performers and volunteers danced on the "digital turf", the play of lights turning the oval-shaped lawn into a glittering color palette of sparkling images and characters.
Four moving props combined to form the word "Asia" behind the dancers, as 19 stems of osmanthus, Hangzhou's city flower, blossomed to adorn the virtual garden with a strong local flavor.
The parade of delegates then commenced to rousing cheers from the crowd, with athletes of all 45 national Olympic committees represented in Hangzhou marching into the carnival, dancing, singing and taking selfies with each other and performers.
As the biggest Asian Games in history featuring a record 12,417 athletes, the Hangzhou Asiad witnessed 15 world and 28 Asian records being set in 481 medal events, again the highest ever. Some competitions also served as Olympic qualifying events. A total of 67 Olympic qualification quotas were awarded in nine sports for next year's Paris Games.
The host delegation finished on top of the table with a whopping 383 medals, including 201 gold. China has now topped the Asiad medal tally 11 times in a row, having clinched the first position ever since the 1982 edition of the Games in India.
During the closing ceremony, two short films, documenting athletic highlights and touching moments respectively during the Games, left spectators smiling tearfully as fond memories of the sporting achievements, the host's hospitality and most importantly the mutual respect and bonhomie among Asian neighbors overwhelmed all those in attendance.
"With unremitting efforts, we have delivered on our commitment of presenting a distinctly Chinese, uniquely Asian and spectacular Games," said Gao Zhidan, president of the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee, during his speech at the ceremony. "Athletes from across Asia have strived to achieve excellence in the competition, and their passion and vitality are the embodiments of a 'Heroic Asia'," added Gao, also president of the Chinese Olympic Committee.
Singh of the Olympic Council of Asia, said he appreciated the Chinese host's efforts in delivering a "spectacular and unforgettable" event before he declared the Games closed.
"We will never forget our time here together — the magnificent stadiums, the enthusiasm and generous support of the Chinese people and, of course, the amazing performances of our Asian athletes," said Singh, a former Olympic shooter from India.
A handover ceremony took place with Hangzhou passing on the OCA flag to Japanese prefecture Aichi and its capital city Nagoya, which will co-host the next Asian Games in 2026.
As a salute to volunteers, a projection of a memory river flew across the stage toward the end of the show, reflecting on all the hard work and thoughtful services provided by them during the Games, before welcoming them to join the athletes in the final celebration.
The giant virtual torchbearer, who lit the main flame together with Olympic champion swimmer Wang Shun at the opening ceremony, made a surprise return to the stadium amid thunderous applause from the crowd.