|The Asian Games officially opened with a glitzy ceremony featuring more than 6,000 performers [AFP]
China promised another spectacular opening event and delivered it to mark the start of the Asian Games.
Two years after the Beijing Olympics in the Chinese capital, the southern city of Guangzhou - which for a long time served as China's window to the world - opened the world's second-biggest multi-sports event on Friday, with an aqua-themed ceremony.
Athletes were ferried on 45 boats to an island venue shaped like the bow of a ship for an extravaganza of light, water and flames.
More than 10,000 athletes from 45 countries or territories are competing in 42 sports starting on Saturday and finishing on November 27.
Brightly illuminated in bulbs of different colours, the boats were decorated with Asian landmarks - including Japan's Mount Fuji, Cambodia's Angkor Wat, Jordan's Petra and India's Taj Mahal. China was represented by the Temple of Heaven, the Bird's Nest and the country's pavilion from the recently concluded Shanghai World Expo.
The massive scale of the opening ceremony posed logistical issues for the Chinese organizers.
Except for members of the public who won a lottery for tickets to the show, most residents in the city of 10 million had little choice but to watch on TV.
The downtown area was locked down near the stadium and residents within a one-kilometer radius were ordered to leave their homes for the night - apparently to eliminate the threat of sniper fire.
Many downtown subway stations were closed Friday for security sweeps and streets in the vicinity of the opening ceremony were unusually quiet for a bustling city of more than 10 million.
Wen Jiaobao, the Chinese Premier, attended, and was joined by Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president; Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai Prime Minister; and other dignitaries from the region.
There will be 28 gold medals awarded on Saturday, the first day of full competition, with finals in shooting, swimming, triathlon, judo, weightlifting, gymnastics and in dance sports, which is making its debut at the Asian Games.
India has a good chance in the shooting, with Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang in action.
Japan has the leading contenders in the women's triathlon and judo, but China is again expected to lead the way from the start in the overall medal count.