Guangzhou pulls out all the stops hosting biggest sports event
Peter Simpson in Guangzhou
Caution might have been the feeling among Hong Kong sports chiefs this week as they continued to ponder a bid for Asia's biggest sports event. But a wave of optimism washed the Guangzhou 16th Asian Games bandwagon into a freezing Beijing.
Pearl River officials arrived in the capital on Wednesday flanked by drummers and dancers to mobilise national support for the competition in November.
As Hong Kong Olympic Committee honorary secretary Pang Chung sought to dampen expectations for a Games bid by four years (2023 Games), the Guangzhou organisers remained very much in a party mood after overcoming a financially difficult 2009.
Concerns last March over a lack of sponsors to help pay for the gigantic November 12-27 event have been eased after several powerful global and domestic brands guaranteed their pivotal cash backing.
The metropolis is on course to stage the biggest - and no doubt best - competition in the Games' 58-year-old history. More than 12,000 athletes will compete for 1,419 medals in 42 sports, including debuts for cricket, roller sport and weiqi. That's 14 more disciplines than the Beijing Olympics and three more than the last Asian Games in Doha in 2006.
Guangzhou has looked to Beijing's Olympic success for inspiration for its moment in the international spotlight. Protest parks have been mooted, citizens have been told to stop spitting, 60,000 volunteers are preparing to smile, the battle is on to clean the air and slogans and furry mascots adorn buses.
Thousands of athletes, officials, journalists and fans will travel on new subway lines and roads and stay in new accommodation complexes.
There is a modest slew of impressive new modern stadiums, though most of the sports will play out in 41 existing arenas that are being heavily revamped.
Frugality has been the mantra of officials - though some 200 billion yuan is being spent on this huge, no-expense-spared makeover to impress November's visitors.
But once the lights are turned off after Guangzhou's closing ceremony, Asian Olympic chiefs will start to butcher the beast the Asian Games has become over the past decade.
'The Games will never be this big again,' senior AOC official Manuel Silvereio told the Post. 'We have to cut down the disciplines and make it more manageable for our National Olympic Committee members.'