by JAMES S. KIM
South Korea knows how to party, and the host country put on one heck of a show to kick off the 2014 Incheon Asian Games earlier today at the sparkling new Incheon Asiad Main Stadium. The three-hour event marked the beginning of the 16-day games, which will showcase around 10,000 athletes in 36 sports.
Celebrities and stars kept the ceremony in high gear for all 60,000 people in attendance. Boy band EXO began the festivities with performances of their hits “Growl” and “Wolf.” Opera singer Jo Sumi sang “The Song of Asiad,” based on a poem written by renowned poet Ko Un, and the always-popular “Arirang.”
The crowd went crazy for My Love from the Stars‘ leading man Kim Soo-hyun and fellow actor Jang Dong-gun. Who better to convey a message of togetherness among Asian countries than these two pan-Asian stars?
Well, perhaps, international superstars PSY, JYJ and South Korean actress Lee Young-ae, who is widely known for her role in the hit Korean drama Daejanggeum.
Xiah Junsu, Yoochun and Jaejoong of JYJ took the stage in what had to be an incredibly rare Korean television appearance since breaking away from TVXQ years ago. There was no question the guys still have it–they performed “Empty,” then the official Incheon song “Only One” as South Korean sports legends, past and present, carried the torch around the stadium.
After the torch passed from athlete to athlete, including baseball slugger “the Lion King” Lee Seung-yeop, golf superstar Inbee Park, speed-skating icon Lee Kyu-hyuk, basketball legend Park Chan-sook, and then tennis giant Lee Hyung-taek, Lee Young-ae and two children lit the flame to mark the beginning of the games.
To close the performances, PSY hearkened back to 2012 (has it already been that long?) with a signature nothing-held-back performance of “Gangnam Style” and a remix of “Champion,” the latter a collaboration with Chinese pianist Lang Lang.
The show definitely wasn’t 2008 Beijing, but it didn’t have to be.