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Igniting the flame of innovation

By MA ZHENHUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-23 08:22
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While hundreds of millions train their eyes on the igniting of the caldron during the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou on Saturday, many will turn to their phones to soak in the excitement of that climactic moment.

They will be able to participate in the first ever virtual lighting of the caldron in the Games' history, the culmination of its first ever digital torch relay.

First introduced on Nov 27, 2022, the digital torchbearer program aims to break through the constraints of time and space, so that more people can enjoy the Games, according to the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.

It was officially launched on June 15 this year, when the flame of the Asian Games was lit.

Over a hundred million users have signed up and passed on their digital torches, according to figures released by Ant Group, which developed the digital platform and made it part of Alipay, one of the most popular mobile payment apps in China.

The platform has integrated some of the most advanced technologies such as blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence to better serve the Games.

People can join the virtual torch relay on the platform by simply shaking their mobile phones. After finishing the relay, each torchbearer can choose to download a picture of the moment.

Empowered by AI technologies, over 2,000 billion avatars are on offer for users to choose from, according to Ant Group, making it a truly unique experience.

The program is instrumental in further deepening people-to-people exchanges, as users from more than 40 countries and regions in Asia, and across other continents, are able to join the celebrations in this innovative way, thanks to the participation of leading digital companies including Dana in Indonesia, GCash in the Philippines, Kakao Pay in South Korea, Touch 'n Go eWallet in Malaysia, and TrueMoney in Thailand, among others.

The combination of the physical torch relay with its digital counterpart is a highlight of the grand event, said Du Zuofeng, an official from the Games' torch relay command center.

"In this digital era, anyone can be a torchbearer," he added.

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