Chinese State Councillor Liu Yandong (1st R) meets with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge (2nd R) in Hong Kong, south China, on Dec. 5, 2009. Liu arrived in Hong Kong Saturday to attend the opening ceremony of the 5th East Asian Games.(Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)
By sportswriter Ma Xiangfei
HONG KONG, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- A spectacular performance on the water in Victoria Harbor lifted the curtain on the 5th East Asian Games in Hong Kong, one of the busiest commercial centers in the world.
Chinese State Councillor Liu Yandong declared open the Games, the first international multi-sports tournament ever held in Hong Kong.
Chinese State Councillor Liu Yandong (7th L, front) poses with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) officials for a group photo in Hong Kong, south China, Dec. 5, 2009.(Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)
The announcement came after a 30-minute art performance with the theme of "Be the Legend", which is also the slogan of the nine-day games.
Athletes and officials from the nine participating countries and regions aboard boats watched the performance telling a story of Hong Kong growing from a simple fishing village to one of the wealthiest, most prosperous and internationalized city.
Splendid fireworks lit up the clear night sky, dazzling hundreds of thousands of spectators beside the skycrapers along the coastline.
Lighting boats sail at the Victoria Harbour during the opening ceremony of the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong, south China, Dec. 5, 2009. (Xinhua/Liu Siu Wai)
As in many Chinese events, the color of red played an important role as it symbolizes luck and joy in Chinese culture. The organizers advised the citizens wear red clothes or red ornaments.
The preparation for the quadrennial regional event was first hit by the global economic crisis. The organizers were constantly short of fund to make ends meet. The Hong Kong SAR government would bear half of the 240 million Hong Kong dollars budget while the government itself had to battle the H1N1 pandemic.
Only two new stadiums were built and some existing facilities were upgraded to international standard to hold 22 sports where 262 gold medals are on offer.
The good thing is that few new stadiums spared the organizers of post-Games utilization worries. The brand-new Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground will serve a community with 300,000 residents in the New Territories area and the BMX Park will become the training ground for Hong Kong cyclists after the Games.
Like the previous edition in Macao four year ago, Hong Kong as the host has not built an athletes' village and Athletes were arranged in hotels close to where their events take place in a bid to reduce travel time and ease pressure on the city's heavy traffic.
With the Games going deep into its schedule, Hong Kong people came to be swept up in the festive atmosphere of the sports gala.
They were thrilled to see that the BMX King of Hong Kong Steven Wong grabbed the first gold medal of these Games in the morning and a second title from the men's 15-red snooker team event.
The Hong Kong squash team have secured both the men's and women's titles as they sealed two all-Hong Kong finals on Sunday.
Tickets for table tennis were sold out on Friday as the Hong Kong women's team was rated the favorite and table tennis powerhouse China brought their Beijing Olympic champion Wang Hao for the men's competition.
China boasts the largest and most star-studded team of 589 members, including 405 athletes, among them 17 Beijing Olympic champions.
The Games attracted 2,300 athletes from Chinese mainland, Chinese Taipei, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Guam, Japan, Macao of China, Mongolia, South Korea and Hong Kong, China.