Asian Games 2023: 5 things you need to know as events get under way in Hangzhou

The first events of the Asian Games take place on Tuesday, with the women’s cricket, men’s football, beach volleyball and volleyball competitions all getting under way in Hangzhou.

With the opening ceremony not until Saturday, the next few days will provide a slow burn until the Asian Games torch is lit at the Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.

Still, there is plenty going on across the venues that make up the 19th edition of this multi-sports event, and here are five things we think are worth knowing.

Hong Kong’s women begin their Asian Games against Malaysia on Tuesday. Photo: ICC

1. Cricket is back

Dropped from the 2018 Games in Jakarta, cricket will be played at the event for the first time in nine years.

Hong Kong’s women begin their tournament against Malaysia on Tuesday afternoon, with Indonesia and Mongolia facing off in the morning’s match.

The big guns – India, defending champions Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – join proceedings in the quarter-finals, which start on Thursday.

A partnership between local broadcaster HOY TV and Cricket Hong Kong means fans can watch the men’s and women’s matches live on the CHK Facebook page.

2. A star sign of the times

Igor Stimac, the head coach of India’s football team, was encouraged by his bosses to consult an astrologer when picking his side for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in 2022.

It obviously didn’t hurt, as India won their group, including picking up a 4-0 win over Hong Kong.

Stimac is in charge of the mostly under-23 side in Hangzhou, and they begin their campaign against a Chinese team in desperate need of a victory to restore some pride to the nation’s battered footballing image.

You have to wonder if the former Croatian international already knows the outcome.

People gather at the West Lake in Hangzhou ahead of the 19th Asian Games. Photo: AFP

3. Third time’s a charm

Iran’s men are looking to win the volleyball for a third consecutive Games, while 36-year-old Seyedmohammad Mousavieraghi is chasing a fourth medal overall, having been part of the team that won silver in 2010.

But Japan claimed the Asian Championship last month, beating hosts Iran in the final, so will be hoping for a return to their Asian Games glory days.

Hong Kong’s men begin their tournament against Thailand on Tuesday evening at the Linping Sports Centre Gymnasium.

4. Medals designed with Hangzhou in mind

The Asian Games medals have been named Shan Shui, which translates to “mountain and lake”. The medal design comprises a round medal in a square jade, resembling the ceremonial jade cong, an ancient Chinese vessel from the Liangzhu culture.

The back side of the medal is a square seal, symbolising the athletes’ mark on the Asian Games. The medals also represent the geographical features of Hangzhou.

“The medal takes shape from the iconic landscape of Hangzhou and represents the three main attractions of the city – the West Lake, the Grand Canal and the Liangzhu Ancient City Ruins Park,” said Zhang Junjie, director of the China Academy of Art’s industrial design department.

5. Life’s a beach

The women’s beach volleyball gets under way on Tuesday, and if past form is anything to go by the gold will be won by China. It’s just a question of which pair.

Wang Fan and Xia Xinyi teamed up to claim gold five years ago in Jakarta, but are going their separate ways this time around. Wang is paired with Dong Jie, while Xia has Xue Chen in her corner.

An Olympic bronze medallist and double Asian Games gold medal-winner, Xue knows a thing or two about winning.

Whatever happens, history would have to be made if the medals are to go anywhere but China, Japan, Thailand or Indonesia, who are the only NOCs to have won medals in women’s beach volleyball since its introduction at Bangkok in 1998.


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