08/20/2018, 15.20
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Spectacular opening ceremony at the Asian Games in Jakarta (pictures and video)

by Mathias Hariyadi

Many people hope the sporting event will heal the wounds caused by Islamism. The two Koreas walk together whilst their ambassadors shake hands. The video showing President Widodo entering the stadium on a motorbike is a hit with the public. The day before, the country celebrated its independence amid nationalist feelings and controversy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The 18th edition of the Asian Games opened in Jakarta and Palembang (South Sumatra province) on 18 August until 2 September.

On Saturday evening, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo officially opened the biggest sporting event in Asia at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.

The show started with a splashy video of the president just before he made a dramatic entry (picture 2) on a motorbike of the Presidential Security Force (Paspampres) after driving through Jakarta’s congested traffic to reach the stadium in time (see video below).

The ceremony focused on the traditional cultures of the multi-ethnic nation, starting with 2,200 dancers from 18 Jakarta high schools before some 40,000 spectators.

The performers captivated the audience with the Saman dance, a traditional dance from Aceh, the westernmost province of the country.

Welcomed by the dancers, about 11,000 athletes from 45 nations marched into the stadium in front of a grandiose stage depicting a mountain. The Indonesian delegation was the last to enter (picture 1).

In his address, Erick Thohir, president of the Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee (INASGOC), said that pluralism is one of the characteristics of the nation and the sporting event.

"Through 2018 Asian Games, we are called to celebrate our multicultural and multi-ethnic diversity, our differences, to show off our humanity, and to reverberate the energy of Asian Continent which is multicultural and multi-ethnic,” he said.

The ceremony ended with a display of fireworks.

Moderate Indonesians hope that the success of the sporting event can heal some of the wounds caused by Islamist actions, which have long threatened the stability of the young democracy.

Three days ago, Indonesia celebrated its 73rd Independence Day and flag-raising ceremonies and rallies were held across the country.

One however caused controversy. In Probolinggo (East Java province), some children at the TK Kartika V-69 kindergarten wore black burqas and held cardboard guns, like those of Islamic State fighters.

When the Indonesian flag got stuck during a flag-raising ceremony, Johannes "Johnny" Ande Gala, a 12-year-old boy from Balu (East Nusa Tenggara), climbed the 23-metre pole to free it, a deed much appreciated that sparked national pride.

For this unexpected act, the Indonesian Minister of Youth and Sports invited Joni and his parents to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games (picture 3). The boy will also be exempted from school fees and will receive a "special treatment" and fulfil his dream of enrolling in the country’s military academy.

The Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang provide an opportunity to boost ties between South Korea and North Korea.

During the opening ceremony, the athletes of the two Koreas marched together under the flag of Korean unification. The two sides are also fielding joint teams in three competitions: dragon boat, women's basketball and rowing.

When the Korean delegation walked by the authorities, the ambassadors of the two Koreas, North Korea’s An Kwang Il and South Korea’s Kim Chang Beom shook hands (picture 4).

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