Sapporo, Japan, February 19, 2017: The Crown Prince of Japan, Naruhito, declared the OCA’s 8th Asian Winter Games open at Sapporo Dome on Sunday.
Following the parade of athletes and the official speeches, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince formally opened the Winter Asiad in Sapporo and co-host city Obihiro.
While Japanese royalty performed this key part of the opening ceremony protocol, Japan’s winter sports royalty stepped up to light the Games cauldron – ski jump hero Masahiko Harada, a member of the gold medal-winning team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Another golden boy from Nagano 1998, speed skater Hiroyasu Shimizu, had started the short, four-leg relay inside the stadium.
Earlier in the ceremony, China had begun the parade of athletes. There were loud cheers for the smaller delegations such as Jordan and Uzbekistan, as well as guest teams from Australia and New Zealand for the first time, before the host nation, as is tradition, completed the parade.
The Mayor of Sapporo and President of the Sapporo Asian Winter Games Organising Committee, Mr Katsuhiro Akimoto, welcomed the athletes, officials and guests to Sapporo. He told the audience that this 8th AWG was the biggest in OCA history, with 2,000 participants from 32 NOCs. This figure includes around 1,200 athletes.
"I hope these Games will show the potential of Asia to the world," said the Mayor, who also thanked the 4,600 volunteers for their contribution and support.
The OCA President, HE Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, delighted the crowd with a few Japanese words and phrases, including his opening greeting of "konbanwa" (good evening), "ganbare" (give it your best) and the closing "domo arigato gozaimasu" (thank you very much).
Sheikh Ahmad described Sapporo as the home of the Asian Winter Games as this will be the third time in eight editions that the city has hosted the event, and thanked the citizens for making the athletes and officials feel so welcome in Hokkaido.
"Thank you for your loyal support of the OCA and the Asian Winter Games over many years and for the important role you have played in the development of winter sports in Asia. You are the pioneers," he said.
The opening ceremony, which began at 4pm, included performances by the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Northern Army Band, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido representing the indigenous population of northern Japan, the Yosakoi drum and dance group and 300 members of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) Sapporo Station dance team.
The third and final part of the ceremony was a special live performance by the Japanese duo Dreams Come True, who sing the Games anthem "Winter Song – Dancing Snowflakes Version".
The 8th AWG run from February 19-26 with five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events at 12 competition venues – 11 in Sapporo and one, for speed skating, in Obihiro.
The first two gold medals have already been decided and were presented during the ceremony – to Japan and to Korea in the women’s and men’s snowboard giant slalom, respectively.
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