China launched the 2019 Military World Games in its inland metropolis of Wuhan Friday evening with a dazzling ceremony showcasing the nation’s ancient civilisation and an offer of friendship to the world.
Chinese President Xi Jinping officially opened the Games, by saying: “Now I declare the 2019 Military World Games open.”
In a stadium that seated nearly 60,000 spectators in the Wuhan Sports Center, the opening ceremony started with the parade of 109 delegations amid huge cheers. The biggest roar from the crowd was reserved for the 553 strong Chinese team, led out by flag bearer and retired professional basketball player Wang Zhizhi.
Over the next nine days, a record 9,308 soldiers, including 67 world and Olympic champions, will compete in 27 sports for 329 gold medals, under the motto of this year’s Games “Share friendship, build up peace.”
Apart from the thrill of the more common Olympic sports such as football, swimming and basketball, the Military World Games feature competitions such as parachuting, aeronautical and military pentathlon, offering the audience a new and exhilarating experience.
When all the athletes had gathered in the centre of the stadium, the national anthem of China and the International Military Sports Council anthem were played, with their flags hoisted.
Xu Qiliang, Chairman of the 2019 Military World Games organising committee and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, extended warm welcome to athletes, coaches and guests from all nations.
Herve Piccirillo, president of CISM, said in French in his speech that he was filled with joy, pride and hope seeing delegations rally in Wuhan under the banner of CISM.
He said he was happy for athletes’ representation of CISM values, including resilience, courage, team spirit, military brotherhood, commitment and the service for their nations.
He said in a world of uncertainties, he felt hopeful as people united here sending a message of fraternity, solidarity, tolerance and friendship to the whole world.
“By having the best athletes from armed forces of over 100 countries come together in friendship and respect, you are setting a great example of the power of sport to bring all people in peaceful competition,” said President of International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach in a recorded video.
Bach also said that the event came at a very special moment for China since it is the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and added that “I would like to congratulate President Xi and all Chinese people.”
“Sport always builds bridges, sport never erects walls. In this spirit, I wish all the athletes all the very best for this Military World Summer Games,” he added.
Yuan Xinyue, who is a member of the World Cup-winning Chinese women’s volleyball team and has played for PLA team Bayi since 2014, took the athletes’ oath on behalf of all competitors at the Military World Games.
Afterwards, those inside the stadium were treated to a 50-minute extravaganza titled the “Torch of Peace,” which involved thousands of performers, large-scale projection and LED technologies, and a football pitch-turned three-dimensional stage.
The show celebrated some of China’s greatest ancient military theories – Sun Tzu’s the Art of War, the philosophy of harmony and unity and the Thirty Six Stratagems, as well as its ancient art, the Great Wall and the Silk Road.
It continued with a focus on unity in the modern world, displaying achievements of China’s armed forces in military reforms as well as the Belt & Road Initiative that links the world.
It also championed the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
Performers included famous pianist Lang Lang, Hong Kong-born action film star Jackie Chan and American-born Chinese singer Leehom Wang.
At the end of the opening ceremony that lasted for about two and a half hours, six bearers relayed the torch before retired basketball player Liu Yudong, China’s flag bearer at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, lit the cauldron.
The six others were Olympic table tennis champion Wang Hao, deputy captain of PLA Bayi shooting team Jin Yongde, pentathlon athlete Wang Tanglin, Olympic butterfly stroke gold medalist Jiao Liuyang, volleyball player Yang Junjing and Wuhan-born footballer Wang Shuang.
The flame was first lit in east China’s Nanchang, the birthplace of China’s armed forces (known as the the PLA), in August this year.
Defense department and military leaders from 42 nations were invited to attend the opening ceremony.