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Masterminding a uniquely Asian affair

By LIN SHUJUAN in Hangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-02 10:06
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The Asian Games traditionally feature a number of non-Olympic sports, which this year include mind sports like Go, xiangqi (Chinese chess) and chess, as well as regionally specific disciplines that reflect the cultures of participating countries, such as kabaddi, wushu, kurash, squash and sepak takraw.

Kabaddi is contested by two teams of 12 players, including seven starting players and five backups. It is a game of guile and strength, and the players from both sides compete without the use of any equipment. It is the only sport in the Asian Games that involves one athlete facing multiple opponents alone.

A total of 187 athletes across 16 teams from 10 countries and regions, including Iran, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, will compete at the Xiaoshan Guali Sports Centre for two gold medals, from Oct 2-7.

Some online underestimated the popularity of the sport, only to find that most of the tickets were sold out. In fact, kabaddi is now very popular among residents in Guali.

In promoting the sport, Guali hosted China's first National Kabaddi Championship in June and carried out more than 100 kabaddi activities in local schools and villages, according to Zhang Ting, director-in-charge of Press Operations of Xiaoshan Guali Sports Centre.

"More than 300,000 residents from Guali are now very familiar with kabaddi. They participate in, and love, the sport," Zhang said. "The Asian Kabaddi Federation even awarded our town the title of 'The Home of Kabaddi in China'."

Many have come to appreciate the tradition and culture embodied in Asia-specific sports.

Another example is sepak takraw.

In the event, held at the Jinhua Sports Centre Gymnasium, after each round, no matter whether they score or make a mistake, the participating players from both sides will form a circle on either side of the court, hold the hands of their teammates, and cheer together.

"This is my first time watching a sepak takraw match. When I saw this, I could feel the foundation of teamwork," said one spectator.

Alongside these traditional sports and competitions, emerging disciplines that are popular among young people on the continent, such as squash and esports, have also made their Asiad debut in Hangzhou.

According to Liu Mingyi, a professor at Wuhan Institute of Physical Education, the Asian Games have always maintained an open and inclusive attitude, constantly absorbing new, popular sports with the characteristics of the times.

"This kind of flexibility helps the Asian Games remain attractive and closer to the viewing public," Liu said.

Zhu Qinan agreed.

"I believe that, once these emerging sports are included in the Games, they enjoy more professional, standardized and healthier development, and help attract more young people to participate in sports and Asian culture," Zhu said at a news conference on Thursday.

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