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East Asian Games open with a bang

world Updated: Dec 06, 2009 01:25 IST

The East Asian Games officially opened in Hong Kong on Saturday evening, in what local officials are billing as the biggest international multi-sports event ever hosted by the southern Chinese city.

Hong Kong held the opening ceremony on the glittering waterfront of the city's Victoria Harbour, which is dominated by dozens of gleaming skyscrapers, rather than the more traditional ceremony when teams march around a stadium.

A volley of fireworks lit up the night sky as the ceremony began and dozens of buildings on the waterfront flashed their lights simultaneously, before the Chinese national anthem was played.

White yachts sailed through the world-famous waterway carrying the flags of the nine teams competing at the Games, which are held every four years and run until December 13.

A handful of athletes from each team paraded on a stage jutting out over the water but unlike in 2005, when North Korea and South Korea marched together, they were separate this time amid heightened political tensions.

Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang said in a speech that the Games signalled "a new chapter" for the city.

"The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived," said Timothy Fok, president of the East Asian Games Association.

"I'm sure many of the East Asian athletes can confidently compete with athletes in the rest of the world."

Some events at the Games have been under way since Wednesday, but the real action begins Sunday, when the Chinese will be looking to assert their supremacy -- and break some world records -- in the swimming.