The 19th Asian Games began Saturday in China's Hangzhou, home to many high-tech companies, with President Xi Jinping attending the opening ceremony at an 80,000-capacity stadium.
Xi declared the opening of this edition of Asia's Olympics, which had been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, after a parade of athletes.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Raja Randhir Singh, acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia, were also in attendance at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.
About 12,000 athletes from 45 countries and regions are competing in 40 disciplines, including non-Olympic ones such as kabaddi, sepaktakraw and the traditional board game of Go, with events running through Oct. 8.
"Dear athletes, the Asian Games stage has been set up for you to perform your best," Singh said. "We want you to respect your fellow athletes and the judges. We look forward to seeing you at your best and taking part, in the spirit of friendship and fair competitions."
Japan has brought a record contingent of more than 1,100 athletes to this eastern Chinese city, but it was unable to field the best possible teams for some sports, such as athletics and gymnastics, due to the one-year postponement.
The world gymnastics championships will start next Saturday in Belgium and coincide with the Asian Games.
Two-time world fencing sabre champion Misaki Emura and rifle shooter Akihito Shimizu served as Japan's flag bearers.
North Korea has returned to the global sporting arena with a delegation of about 190 athletes after skipping international competitions since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
In July, the Olympic Council of Asia approved the participation of up to 500 Russian and Belarusian athletes without national symbols at the Asian Games amid Russia's war on Ukraine, but those athletes have ended up not competing in Hangzhou.
Berths for next year's Paris Olympics are on the line in seven sports, including boxing and tennis.
Esports will debut as official medal events in Hangzhou, where e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has its headquarters.
"We hope that all participants will engage in closer communication, appreciate the culture of one another, build stronger friendship and find happiness during the games," said Wang Hao, president of the Asian Games Hangzhou committee and governor of Zhejiang Province.
"We invite friends to appreciate various manifestations of Chinese modernization in the new era, which will make your Asian Games experience even more memorable."
China, Japan and South Korea have been the top three performers at past Asian Games, with China also growing into an Olympic superpower.
China snapped up 132 gold medals at the previous Asian Games in 2018 in Jakarta and Palembang. Japan was a distant second with 75, six of those by swimmer Rikako Ikee, who was named the games' MVP.
The regional multi-sport event, also known as Asiad, is held every four years in the even years between the Olympics.
China is hosting the Asiad for the first time since the 2010 meet in Guangzhou and for the third time overall.
Japan's Aichi Prefecture and its capital Nagoya are the co-hosts of the next games in 2026.