Torch relay for 19th Asian Games begins in Hangzhou
Torch bearer Luo Xuejuan runs with the torch during the torch relay of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 8, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)
HANGZHOU, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- The torch relay for the 19th Asian Games officially started near the iconic West Lake in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province on Friday, marking a 15-day countdown to the event.
Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, lit the torch from a cauldron at a ceremony held at the Yongjin Park Square and then announced the start of the relay.
Swimming great Luo Xuejuan, the women's 100 meters breaststroke winner at the 2004 Olympic Games, was the first of the 106 torchbearers during Friday's relay.
Other high-profile bearers on the first day included Olympic champion volleyball star Hui Ruoqi and Olympic champion shooter Yang Qian.
According to organizers, the flame is set to be relayed through 11 cities in Zhejiang Province, namely Huzhou, Jiaxing, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Zhoushan, Taizhou, Wenzhou, Lishui, Jinhua and Quzhou, before returning to Hangzhou on September 20 to complete its final leg. More than 2,000 torchbearers will participate in the relay, ranging in age from 14 to 84.
In line with the Games' ethos of "green, smart, economical and ethical", the torch relay also incorporates an online part. The online relay of the "Digital Torchbearer" was launched after the Asian Games flame collection ceremony on June 15. So far, more than 84 million people have participated in the Asian Games online torch relay.
The Hangzhou Asian Games, which will open on September 23, is set to be the largest edition ever with 12,500 athletes from 45 countries and regions.