The 18th Asian Games kicked off here in the Indonesian capital on Saturday with a ceremony highlighting the country's capability to host international sporting events, with South and North Korea back in the spotlight during their joint march.
Jakarta and Palembang, some 400 kilometers northwest from here, will serve as the co-host cities of the continental competition, which will run under the motto "Energy of Asia" through Sept. 2. Preliminary action in football, basketball and handball began last week for scheduling reasons.
Indonesia is hosting the Asian Games for the second time. Jakarta was the sole host of the 1962 Asiad.
Times have changed. In 1962, there were about 1,500 athletes from 17 nations competing for 120 gold medals in 13 sports. This year, there are 465 gold medals up for grabs in 40 sports, and 45 nations have sent some 11,000 athletes.
South Korea has sent 807 athletes in 39 sports, and it will try to fend off Japan to rank second behind the superpower China in the medal race for the sixth consecutive Asian Games. South Korean officials have said it will take at least 65 gold medals to achieve that feat.
South Korea has assembled joint teams with North Korea in women's basketball; dragon boat racing, which is a canoeing discipline; and three events in rowing.
The Koreas also marched in together behind the Korean Unification Flag -- bearing the image of the Korean Peninsula in blue against a white background -- during the opening ceremony at Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Main Stadium.
Lim Yung-hui, the South Korean captain of the unified women's basketball team, served as a co-flag bearer alongside North Korean football player Ju Kyong-chol.
The Korean athletes and officials walked in to a loud ovation from the stadium, and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Ri Ryong-nam got up from their seats in the VIP box, holding and raising their hands together.
Down on the field, South Korean chief delegate Kim Seong-jo and top North Korean delegate Won Kil-u also marched hand in hand.
The Koreas previously had a joint march at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the South in February this year. The flag bearers were South Korean male bobsledder Won Yun-jong and North Korean female hockey player Hwang Chung-gum.
After the athletes entered the stadium and Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), declared the Asian Games open, the creative segments of the ceremony began. Each section -- water, earth, wind and fire -- was designed to depict the natural beauty of Indonesia and also the country's courage and competitive spirit.
The final segment, titled "Energy of Asia" after the Asian Games' motto, was about how future generations will help build Indonesia into a leader of tomorrow while remembering their guiding principles of respect and equality.
The opening ceremony featured some of Indonesia's top pop music acts, such as Anggun Cipta Sasmi, Tulus, Raisa and the trio Gamaliel, Audrey and Cantika (GAC).
The show was put together by a team of Indonesian artists and producers from different disciplines, with television producer Wishnutama Kusubandio serving as creative director (Yonhap)