The world's second-biggest multi-sports spectacle after the Olympic Games, that will see over 13000 competitors from 45 countries and regions vying for glory, was kickstarted with singing, dancing, besides the expected fanfare and fireworks. In Pics: Asian Games opening ceremony
The Games were declared open by South Korean President Park Geun-Hye with the words "I declare open the 17th Asian Games," before celebrated actress Lee Young-ae lit up the flame resembling a fountain of cascading water.
As Lee lighted the cauldron, dazzling fireworks lit up the evening sky.
The competing teams marched into the stadium in the final act of the evening. The Indian athletes trooped in after Iran with hockey skipper Sardar Singh leading out the smartly-dressed contingent.
The Indians were attired in black blazers with the women athletes dressed in blue sarees. The smiling athletes walked in waving the tri-colour. India have sent a nearly 700-strong contingent for the event and will take part in 28 disciplines.
The overriding theme of the opening was the unity of Asia and consequently the cultural show comprised four parts: Asia a long time ago; Asia connected through sea routes; Asia becoming family and friends; and One Asia, the future we meet today.
As is the custom the ceremony was divided into the informal and formal parts.
The event began with a welcoming performance, lasting close to 80 minutes, to greet the spectators at the 60,000-capacity stadium that was filled to the brim.
It included a cultural heritage performance of Pungmul Play, a performance of a cheering squad, a congratulatory video of celebrities, and K-Pop boy group EXO's performance to get the spectators revving up for the main event.
The session was divided into three parts -- "Incheon, the magnet of dreams," "Incheon, where all of us become friends," and "Tomorrow, dreamed by all of us."
A display of Korea's traditional drums and cymbal-type instruments before emcees Kim Sung-ju and Youn Soo-young came on stage.
Then, a cheering team formed by young children performed to a remix of songs from past sports events held in Korea, including the theme song of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
"For You," one of the popular cheerleading songs used in Korea, wrapped up the song and dance part to get the spectators in the mood for the grand show that followed.
When the lights dimmed a girl symbolising the dreams and hope of humanity enters into the stadium by rolling a hoop which is a traditional play of Korea and here symbolising the world in unity and human beings living in harmony.
Kim Min, the hoop girl, is a rhythmic gymnast, attending Incheon Cheongil Elementary School and is aiming to win the gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The second part of the opening ceremony consisted of two themed songs – "New Asia, a Song of Hope" and "Incheon".
"New Asia, a song of hope" began with poet Ko Un reading "Song for the Asiad", composed by Kim Young-dong, which was followed by Soprano Sumi Jo brilliantly singing the solo song which was followed by a 10-vocalist choir joining her with a large screen showing Incheon citizens reading the latter part of the poem.
The song changed into Arirang, a very popular Korean folksong often sung as an unofficial national anthem.
Then "Incheon, a place for one Asia" expressed the Games hosting city as a bridge to unite Asia as one family and open the future of the continent.
Two figures related to Incheon appeared on stage: Biryu, a legendary founding father of an ancient kingdom whose territory covered the Incheon area, and Sim Cheong, a girl in an ancient novel, who dived into the sea as a sacrifice for fishermen who promised to give her blind father a huge amount of rice instead.
On the final stage of "Incheon, a place for one Asia," a ship returned to Incheon with Korean opera singer, Ahn Sook-sun, singing "One Asia."
The ship carried the hoop girl, actor Kim Soo-hyun and people from 45 nations. They were welcomed by actor Jang Dong-gun and people of Incheon. Executive director Im Kwon-taek and artistic director Jang Jin orchestrated all performances.
Executive director Im Kwon-taek and artistic director Jang Jin orchestrated all the performances.
After the cultural show ended, the national flag of host country South Korea was brought into the stadium by eight top Korean Seok Hae-kyun (Former freighter captain who saved his sailors after abduction by Somali pirates), Lee Bong-ju (Boston Marathon medallist), Hyun-bin (Actor and honorary ambassador of the 17th Asian Games), Kang Su-jin (First Asian principal dancer of Stuttgart Ballet in Germany), Lee Jasmine (First non-ethnic Notional Assembly member in Korea), Park Se-ri (Professional golfer who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on the LPGA Tour in 2007) and Lim Chun-ae (Triple gold medallist at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul).
The host country's national anthem sung to signal the commencement of the formal part of the programme.
The teams had been restricted to 130 members for the march past and the Indian marching crowd did not contain competitors whose events start on Saturday.
As was expected the host country's contingent, aiming to finish at least second overall in the medals tally behind
juggernaut China, was given the loudest cheer of the entire evening.
In his welcome speech Kim Young-soo, the president of the Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee, described Incheon as not only his birthplace, but also as "a dynamic city of communication and interaction; the venue for convergence and exchange, home to various ethnicities, cultures, the latest scientific technologies and traditions."
He also said that the current Asian Games will be "a grand festival for peace and harmony, to discard all discrimination, prejudice, suppression and conflicts; and to ensure an Asia of mutual understanding and prosperity."
"The 17th Asian Games has been prepared not as a festival for just few nations, but as a magnificent festival for all Asians to celebrate as one," he added.
After the Games were formally declared open the OCA flag was brought in by eight top former Korean sports heroes and ceremoniously raised.
The eight athletes were judo star Ha Hyung-joo, handball player Yoon Kyung-shin, Guiness World Record holder Park Joo-bong, gymnast Yeo Hong-chul, shot putter Baek Ok-ja, grand slam winner table tennis star Hyeon Jeong-hwa, international judge Shin Jung-hee, and weightlifter Jang Miran.
The OCA Flag was raised followed by the ceremonial oath rendered by Korean athletes Oh Jin-hyek and Nam Hyun-hee and judges Kim Hong-lae and Suh Hae-jung.
The Games torch, in a departure from tradition lit on August 9 at New Delhi's Dhyan Chand National Stadium which was the venue of the inaugural Asian Games in 1951, was then ceremoniously brought into the stadium by a relay squad of runners before the cauldron was lit in spectacular fashion by Korean actor Lee Young-ae to thunderous roars from the crowd.
Traditionally, the flame of Asian Games had always been lit in the Games hosting nation. But to infuse a sense of tradition and honour to the history of Asian Games, the flame for the 17th Games here was lit up in an overseas nation for the first time to lay the foundation for the flame of the Asian Games to be continuously lit up in the Dhyan Chand National Stadium from now on.
Through the relay from New Delhi, the hosting city for the first Asian Games and through China, the flame arrived at Incheon Port through sea route on August 12th.
It all ended in a riot of colour and foot-tapping Gangnam style music and dance with the assembled athletes in the centre of the field joining in.
Competitions in 36 sports commence tomorrow with great vigour.
The world's second-biggest multi-sports spectacle after the Olympic Games, that will see over 13000 competitors from 45 countries and regions vying for glory, was kickstarted with singing, dancing, besides the expected fanfare and fireworks.
In Pics: Asian Games opening ceremony