JAKARTA -- Amid a breathtaking display of dance, song, and fireworks, the 18th Asian Games officially opened Saturday night in a dazzling opening ceremony that celebrated host Indonesia's rich heritage and honored its sporting heroes.
Looking snappy in a Barong Tagalog, basketball star Jordan Clarkson led the Philippine delegation into Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. Although the Philippines officially has over 270 athletes in these Games, only a handful marched in the ceremony as other athletes were in Palembang, while others chose to skip the event to prepare for their respective competitions. Nevertheless, the delegation, led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Ricky Vargas, put on an energetic show, vigorously waving Philippine flags and waving to the crowd.
With fireworks lighting up the Jakarta sky on a clear night, athletes and officials representing 46 Asian countries and territories marched into the historic stadium, which also hosted the 1962 Asian Games.
There was a touching moment during the parade of nations when Unified Korea marched into the stadium, drawing cheers from the crowd and the media people watching in the media room. Cheers were also given out for the delegations from Kuwait, which almost did not make it to the Games, and Palestine.
Riding on the theme Energy of Asia, the opening ceremony did not disappoint, mixing Indonesian history through colorful dance numbers with music from some of the country's most popular singers while giving a nod to athletes who have excelled internationally.
Basketball player Arki Wisnu led the oath taking, while some of the country's past Olympic and Asian Games medalists joined hands to carry the Olympic Council of Asia flag.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo, who made a dramatic entrance riding a motorcycle into the stadium, declared the Games formally open. The torch relay then made its way into the stadium, passing on from one renowned Indonesian athlete to another before the final relay ended with Susi Susanti, Olympic gold medalist in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, lighting the cauldron to thunderous applause, ushering in the biggest sporting event outside the Olympics.
Over 11,000 athletes from 46 countries are chasing medals in 58 events in Jakarta and Palembang in the 18th edition of this quadrennial event. The Philippine campaign, which actually started last Thursday with the men's basketball team's win over Kazakhstan, kicks into high gear on Sunday with athletes in volleyball, softball, wrestling, wushu, fencing, taekwondo, and shooting all debuting.