8 Highlights & Oddities from the 19th Asian Games

By Billy Jiang, October 9, 2023

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As the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou came to a spectacular close on October 8, we recap some of the unforgettable moments and quirks that made this event a unique spectacle.


Final Medal Table

More than 12,000 athletes from all 45 member countries of the Olympic Council of Asia converged on Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, from September 23 to October 8 for the 19th Asian Games. 

Before we delve into the quirks, let's take a look at the final medal standings...

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Final Medal Standings. Data from Olympics.com. Screenshot by That's


High-Tech Cauldron Lighting

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A digital torchbearer lights the cauldron during the opening ceremony of Hangzhou Asian Games, Sept. 23, 2023. Image by Liu Xu/Xinhua

The opening ceremony reached its zenith with a groundbreaking digital cauldron-lighting ceremony. 

Millions of torchbearers transformed digital flames into a digital human figure on the Qiantang River, which then ignited the cauldron alongside six athletes who relayed the actual flame within the stadium. 

A digital fireworks display illuminated the sky, all without firing a single physical firework.


Youngest Athlete at the Games

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Mazel Paris Alegado competes during the match. Image by Pan Yulong/Xinhua

It's not every day you see a nine-year-old competing in the Asian Games. 

Meet Mazel Paris Alegado, who turned nine in March, and represented the Philippines in the skateboarding competition's women's park final and finished seventh out of eight participants. 

Notably, many skateboarders in this competition are between 10 and 15 years old, proving that Generation Alpha shines in skateboarding.


Korean Tennis Player Throws Smashing Tantrum

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Kwon Soon-woo smashes his racket after losing in the men’s singles tournament at the Asian Games. Image via Sina Weibo

South Korean tennis player Kwon Soon-woo, ranked 112th globally, aimed for gold in men's singles but was defeated by a Thai opponent, losing two sets to one. 

Kwon's frustration was evident as he forcefully smashed his tennis racket onto the court. 

After rendering his racket unusable, he used it to strike the chair twice and refused to shake hands with his opponent. 

While losing is undoubtedly disheartening, Kwon's post-match display drew criticism from home and abroad.


Premature Celebration Turns to Despair

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South Korea's Jung Cheol-won prematurely celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the Asian Games men's speed skating 3,000m relay final while Taiwan's Huang Yu-Lin stretches forward to win the race. Image via Sina Weibo

On the morning of October 2, in the men's 3000m speed roller skating relay, the South Korean team lost to Chinese Taipei by a mere 0.01 seconds, earning them a silver medal. 

This razor-thin margin was due to the last South Korean athlete prematurely celebrating just before the finish line, thinking they had secured the win. 

When the scoreboard displayed the actual results, the South Korean team experienced an emotional rollercoaster from ecstasy to agony.


A Hammer Blow

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An athletics official suffered a broken leg after being hit by a hammer hurled during competition. Image via Sina Weibo

During the athletics competition, a horrifying accident occurred when an official was struck by a hammer hurled by Kuwait's Ali Zankawi. 

The 7.26kg hammer smashed into the official's right leg, causing a fracture. 

The official, Huang Qinghua, was sitting outside the throwing circle when the accident happened, and had to undergo surgery.


Hurdles Drama

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China's Wu Yanni faced disqualification due to a false start. Image via Sina Weibo

In the women's 100m hurdles final, China's Wu Yanni faced disqualification due to a false start, which she vehemently protested. 

India's Jyothi Yarraji was also ejected for reacting to Wu's move before the gun. 

Eventually, both athletes were allowed to race, with Wu finishing second behind her teammate Lin Yuwei, and Yarraji taking third place. 

However, Wu was disqualified long after the celebrations had ended, and Yarraji was upgraded to silver.


ESports Takes the Stage

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Team China at DOTA2 competition. Image via Sina Weibo

Esports made its debut as a medal event at the Asian Games, a significant step that could lead to inclusion in the Olympics. 

The 4,500-seat arena was packed with overwhelmingly young spectators eager to see their gaming heroes in action. 

Surprisingly, esports was the only event requiring a 'lucky draw' to determine ticket eligibility, with prices reaching as high as RMB1,000 per ticket.

READ MORE: This Surprising Sport has the Priciest Asian Games Tickets...

Did you follow the 19th Asian Games? Share your impressions and memorable moments in the comments! For the latest news and updates, follow our WeChat official account, ThatsGBA.


[Cover image by Xu Yu/Xinhua]

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