HANGZHOU: China’s eastern city of Hangzhou is set to host the largest Asian Games ever with nearly 12,000 athletes in action.
Ahead of Saturday’s opening ceremony, here’s what you need to know about Hangzhou and the Games venues:
An ancient, scenic city at the southern end of the centuries-old Grand Canal, Hangzhou has in recent years become known as the birthplace of Jack Ma’s Alibaba and its hugely popular shopping app Taobao.
Numerous tech start-ups have set up shop in the city of 12 million people, drawing comparisons to Silicon Valley.
The Games will showcase some of China’s latest tech, including robot dogs, facial recognition and driverless buses.
An AI-powered digital assistant named Xiaomo, in the shape of an “elegant girl”, will provide sign-language interpretation.
Hangzhou is 160 kilometres – or an hour on a bullet train – from Shanghai.
The Games will take place at more than 50 venues, most of them in Hangzhou but a few in other cities.
The centre piece is a massive flower-shaped stadium capable of hosting 60,000 spectators and will stage the opening and closing ceremonies.
Inspired by the lotuses that bloom on the city’s famed West Lake each summer, the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center was completed in 2018 and has been used mainly as a football stadium since.
A lookalike venue nearby, dubbed the “Small Lotus”, houses the tennis finals while a butterfly-shaped structure combines the aquatics venue and indoor sports halls.
The vast Asian Games Village will be home to nearly 20,000 athletes, technical officials and journalists in a mini city within a city.
It is spread over 280 acres and equipped with shops, gyms and a clinic, and is served by two newly opened metro stations.
Dominated by high-rise apartment blocks that will be turned over to residential use after the Games, the village includes a 4,000-person-capacity dining hall serving Chinese and international cuisine.
The 13th-century traveller Marco Polo was smitten with Hangzhou, calling it the “most beautiful and elegant city in the world”.
In 2013 the city launched a “modern-day Marco Polo” competition to find a foreign traveller to tour the city and promote it online, with a 40,000-euro stipend to sweeten the deal.
Aside from its temples and gardens, the city is also home to the Tianducheng housing estate modelled on Paris, complete with its own Eiffel Tower and Haussmann facades.