Relief and pride after 16 days of sporting fever
Mimi Lau in Guangzhou
Many Guangzhou residents sighed in relief as the Asian Games ended yesterday, hoping life would return to normal after coping with months of massive construction efforts and strict security measures.
The 16th Asian Games came to an official close after 16 days of events where 9,704 athletes competed for 476 gold medals. China dominated the medals tally by netting a record 199 gold medals.
The sentimental closing ceremony held on Haixinsha Island in the Pearl River featured a spectacular firework show and an opera-style performance with selected songs from different parts of Asia.
The baton of the Asian Games was passed to Inchon of South Korea and pop star Rain performed in a short segment to signal the countdown to the 2014 Asian Games.
After a total investment of more than 122.6 billion yuan (HK$142.7 billion), Guangzhou shouldered the responsibility of hosting the largest sporting event on the mainland since the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.
The southern metropolis projected a brand new image to its visitors after it was freshly scrubbed and spruced up.
Security remained tight last night to prevent a reoccurrence of the chaos at the opening ceremony, where tens of thousands of eager onlookers broke into cordoned-off areas to watch fireworks. Many residents began travelling on Friday night to secure the best location for the closing ceremony's fireworks.
A 20-year-old university student, majoring in English, said she was proud to see Guangzhou hosting such a major event, even though preparation for the Games had disrupted residents' lives.
'It has been a fulfilling experience, despite some inconvenience,' she said. 'There has been a lot of wasteful construction where the authorities have repaved good roads, but I understand it is Chinese tradition to show off our best to foreign guests.'
A 55-year-old unemployed Guangzhou resident took a deep breath when the Asian Games was finally over. He lives in a complex by the Pearl River and was ordered to leave his home to watch television downstairs to reduce safety risks.
'Security measures have been way over the top,' he said. 'Police and volunteers almost outnumbered residents in my community. This is not the base of Taliban. Guangzhou is the most peaceful place in China, why do they treat us like this?
'The Asian Games is supposed to be a happy event and people should celebrate together, but areas by the Pearl River have been shut to outsiders so it looks like a dead city.
'Searchlights have been bombarding our windows for weeks, I'm so glad this is going to be over soon so we can get a good night's sleep.'