Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ kickstarts Asian Games 2014 at Incheon

first_imgTo achieve international superstardom means you become virtually synonymous with your country. Over the course of the last couple of years, that’s exactly what has happened to South Korean pop artist Psy.His Gangnam Style single became the biggest rage on the internet in 2012, and on Friday, the 36-year-old was the headlining act of a glittering opening ceremony to the 17th Asian Games at Incheon.Sixty-thousand spectators were packed in the main stadium like sardines in a tin, eager to welcome elite athletes from across the biggest continent on the face of the earth. Doubts were raised earlier in the week about the slow pace of ticket sales for the ceremony, but as the appointed hour of 7pm arrived on Friday, there was barely a seat left empty. Since well before sunset, people had started trooping in.Security was tight but not an irritant and infants, youth and senior citizens alike stood patiently in lines to get past the gates. However, those hoping to post ‘selfies’ from inside the stadium were in for a shock as mobile phone signals seemed to be jammed.Korean pop stars and celebrities were an integral part of the ceremony, at which the Games were declared open by Park Geun-Hye, the president of South Korea.While Psy’s performance was undoubtedly the centrepiece of the evening, well-known South Korean actress Lee Young-Ae lit the Games cauldron. Usually, it is big-name athletes who are given this honour but the organisers gave the responsibility to Lee, given her popularity across Asia.advertisementThe theme for the ceremony was “One Asia”. Given the turmoil that affects the 4.5 billion inhabitants of the continent, it was an apt theme, choreographed in two parts, before the 45 participating nations’ athletes and officials entered the stadium.Indians know full well how the country’s relationship with the neighbouring Pakistan is often frosty, and similarly, North and South Korea are also poles apart. Yet, when the North Korean contingent entered the arena, there was loud cheering from the crowd.To be sure, sport acts as a balm. There is turmoil in Afghanistan and Syria, yet their athletes have turned up for the Asian Games in the hope there will be peace in Asia one day – as envisaged by Incheon.The size of the contingents entering the stadium had been kept limited and at the head of India’s shortened team was hockey captain Sardar Singh. Nattily dressed in grey trousers and a blue blazer, Sardar marched proudly ahead of women athletes in turquoise blue sarees, though a lot of wellknown names were missing from the parade.Sitting in the VIP area, Randhir Singh, secretary general of the Olympic Council of Asia, greeted the Indian contingent with a wave while his face was beamed on the giant LED screens around the stadium.When OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah greeted the crowd in Korean, there was a big round of applause. He then delivered his speech in English. “These are your Games, so let us unite and share the excitement and passion of the next 16 days,” he said.Close to 10pm local time, bright fireworks lit up the sky to signal the beginning of the fortnight-long sporting extravaganza.In the days ahead, Koreans and other Asians of various nationalities will witness plenty of success stories and heartbreaks. But on this night, Incheon well and truly laid out the red carpet for the rest of the continent.s.kannan@mailtoday.inlast_img read more