Asian Games: Only 40 per cent tickets sold for opening ceremony

first_imgPolicemen patrol outside a stadium.It’s a fast and flat 23-kilometre drive from the busy Incheon airport to the Songdo city centre. The spicand-span eight-lane bridge is a visual delight and there are no traffic snarls or honking. There are a few toll gates to be negotiated on the bridge while a huge expanse of the Yellow Sea flows below it. The cabbies, like most around the world, are chatty and offer valuable insights into the Asian Games beginning in Incheon on Friday.Twenty-six years ago, when Seoul, the nearby capital of South Korea, hosted the summer Olympics, Incheon was almost unheard of. Today, the world sees Incheon with reverence as a port city which handles a huge amount of passenger and goods traffic.The way the new city has come up has to be seen to be believed. However, with the Asian Games opening ceremony just three days away, there isn’t a palpable buzz in the air.It was a surprise to learn on Tuesday that ticket sales for Friday’s opening ceremony have been pegged at just about 40 per cent of the stadium capacity. My cab driver was quick to point out that Seoul would have been a more sporting host, but Incheon has the money to put on a show of this magnitude while most Asian countries today are struggling to raise sponsorship.Yoo Sunhon, who had come to New Delhi for the Asian Games torch relay ceremony, says had the Games been held in Seoul, there would have been more crowd participation.advertisementLocals have immense interest in soccer, rugby, swimming and gymnastics, tickets for which are sold out. But Sunhon says for most other sporting disciplines, ticket sales have not picked up.This edition of the Asiad is historic as North Korea has sent its athletes after a lot of deliberations. Given the political differences between the neighbours, it’s commendable how Incheon has opened its arms to welcome the North Koreans.There are not many North Korean flags dotting the city streets, but the few spotted close to the South Korean flag mark it as a special moment. Those who have lived in Incheon for over two decades say it’s good that there will be a friendly exchange between the two Koreas at the summit of Asian sports.The Songdo convention centre houses most of Incheon’s big hotels and the main media centre for print and television. The security is not obtrusive but virtually every inch of the boulevard in this area is under surveillance.By evening, once the sea breeze sets in, it is very pleasant, and one can see athletes, officials and support staff walking among the modern restaurants and coffee shops in the hub of the city.The night temperature dips to a low of 17 degrees Celsius, which makes it very cool for an Asian Games host city and athletes who will compete under floodlights are not complaining.The last time South Korea hosted the Asian Games was in 2002 in Busan. A lot has changed since then, especially with China flashing its money power to wow the world, first with the 2008 Beijing Olympics and then the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.Incheon is also itching to put its best foot forward and the quality of competition in the Games is expected to be very high this time [email protected]last_img

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