Jakarta: Indonesia will be celebrating its 73rd Independence Day on Friday but the euphoria surrounding this one is special. The cities of Jakarta and Palembang are all set to host the 18th Asian Games, the second biggest global multisport event, with the opening ceremony on Saturday.
With a major facelift and Indonesian red and white flags lining the streets, the nation has been welcoming athletes, officials and spectators for the Asian sporting spectacle.
The Games tagline — Energy of Asia — was rightly reflected with residents and visitors thronging the streets during the final three-day leg of the torch relay. Close to 50,000 people, including 8,000 plus students, cheered on the torch bearers.
It was a clear indication that the country is united and putting on a brave face in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that killed close to 400 people in tourist hubs Bali and Lombok on August 10.
The Games will feature 465 events across 40 sports and the athletes’ village in Kemayoran, Jakarta, was also abuzz. Comprising of 10 towers, the village with a capacity of 21,000 saw flags of all the competing nations fluttering.
The UAE team made a significant impact as they had the longest flag displayed outside their apartments. Not all the athletes have arrived yet, only the football team have flown in early for their qualifiers and the rest are expected to arrive ahead of the opening ceremony.
This Games will see the UAE’s highest representation as they have fielded 138 athletes who will compete in 23 individual and team events. The UAE team along with others received a warm welcome in the village and the flags were hoisted with the national anthem playing in the background.
Ahmad Al Tayeb, Chef de mission of the UAE Contingent, said: “For me the first impression of the Games is really satisfying. Indonesians are known for their hospitality and have prepared the athletes’ village very well. We are glad that we are staying at a place that will be handed over to their nationals with low incomes. It is great to see that they have pushed their limits to host an event of such a grand scale.”
He was also optimistic that the UAE will start their campaign on a high and medals are expected in the events which are starting early such as shooting and jet skiing.
“In football we have struggled but I’m confident that we will have medals coming in shooting and jet skiing,” added Al Tayeb.
Indonesian Asian Games Organising Committee Chief Erick Thohir speaking about the preparations said, “We now need to convince ourselves that our preparations have been sufficient because the numbers have exceeded expectations. I can guarantee that the capacities of both athlete villages are sufficient.”