The Hangzhou Asian Games, delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officially kicked off on Saturday evening with an eco-friendly opening ceremony.
The ceremony took place at the lotus-shaped Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium as scheduled following talk of a possible venue change due to rain in the morning.
Under the slogan "Heart to Heart, @Future," the first major sporting event in the endemic era will run until October 8 in six Chinese cities, including Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, with some 12-thousand athletes from a record 45 countries vying to win 481 gold medals in 40 sports.
The ceremony featured an environmentally friendly program with laser shows and augmented reality technology taking the place of traditional fireworks, culminating in the first-ever digital lighting of the torch.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the ceremony alongside foreign dignitaries, including Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
Led by two flagbearers, fencer Gu Bon-gil and swimmer Kim Seo-yeong, the South Korean delegation was the 16th to march into the stadium.
Team Korea has sent a record one-thousand-140 athletes and officials to Hangzhou, aiming to garner over 50 gold medals for an overall third-place finish in the medal count.
The first medals are expected on Sunday, while podium-topping finishes are anticipated for high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok and swimmer Hwang Sun-woo, as well as in football and baseball, by the end of the event.
South Korea also seeks to sweep all three golds in the board game Go, and medal prospects also run high in esports, which makes its first appearance at the Asian Games.
Meanwhile, North Korea, ending its pandemic-induced isolation, has also sent a 185-member squad to compete in 18 sports, including football and weightlifting.