XI'AN, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 14th National Games open in Xi'an, capital city of northwest China's Shaanxi Province on Wednesday evening.
A grand opening ceremony featuring music, dance and cultural exhibition was held in the pomegranate-flower shaped Xi'an Olympic Center Stadium.
During the one-and-a-half-hour ceremony, Yang Qian, a double shooting champion at last month's Tokyo Olympic Games, lit the cauldron with the flame which was ignited on July 17 in Yan'an, a former revolutionary base of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Under the theme of "Games for all, together in mind and action", the 14th National Games features a total of 54 sports including 595 events, of which 35 sports and 410 events are set for elite athletes, while the remainder are mass sports programs. Most events will be held in Shaanxi Province, while sailing, canoe slalom, surfing, breakdance, fencing and track cycling are staged in other provinces and municipalities.
Billed as China's "mini Olympics", the quadrennial National Games, inaugurated in 1959, has featured Olympic-style program plus wushu for elite athletes and opened its door to sports enthusiasts for the first time in the 2017 Tianjin edition.
More than 12,000 athletes representing China's provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and specific sporting associations will compete in this year's Games, which will run through to September 27. Some competitions, like diving, artistic swimming and rhythmic gymnastics, have already concluded before the opening ceremony.
Sport climber Au Chi-fung was the flag bearer of the Hong Kong team, whose 169 members will compete in 18 sports including athletics, badminton, cycling and table tennis. Leung Ka Yu and Lee Wai Sze have pocketed track cycling medals in the competitions which completed before the opening ceremony.
The Macao team, parading into the stadium behind flag bearer and shuttler Pui Pang Fong, will participate in 20 sports at the Games.
Merely over one month after the conclusion of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics, a number of Olympians, including men's star sprinter Su Bingtian, table tennis Grand Slam winner Ma Long and swimming champion Zhang Yufei, will be vying for glory at the domestic sporting extravaganza. The trio were torchbearers at the opening ceremony.
"It's my first time to attend the opening ceremony of the National Games," said Tokyo Olympic women's trampoline champion Zhu Xueying.
Despite failing to make into the final, Zhu cherished her third National Games appearance. "It spurs me to go forward in the future," she said.
A string of anti-virus measures including vaccination, nucleic acid test, closed-loop management and health monitoring have been put in place for the safety of each participant, as it's the first major multi-sport event held in China since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Games organizers have also vowed to adopt a zero-tolerance stance toward doping, and more than 200 doping control officers are expected to conduct a record number of doping tests during the Games.