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The backstory: The Asian Games, often referred to as the "Asian Olympics," has a rich history dating back to 1951. This sporting event is like the Olympics but exclusively for Asian nations. The 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, officially kicked off two weeks ago, and it's been making headlines for being the largest edition ever. But, there was a one-year delay due to COVID, making this a big deal for China – especially after hosting the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, which also had to contend with strict COVID regulations.
This year, the Games also added some unique events into the mix, like chess, Chinese chess (Xiangqi) and even the first official esports event, with players battling it out on titles like League of Legends.
More recently: On Sunday, Hangzhou brought the 19th Asian Games to a close with a "joy"-themed closing ceremony. Just like the opening ceremony, it featured a digital athlete extinguishing the ceremonial flame and making a symbolic run through the stadium before disappearing into the sky. During the ceremony, there was also the symbolic handover of hosting duties for the 2026 Asian Games to Nagoya, Japan.
The development: During this year’s Asian Games, China dominated the medal table for the 11th time in a row, snagging 201 gold medals. That's a new record, beating the country’s previous 199 gold medals at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. Hong Kong also set itself up well for next year’s Olympics in Paris, nabbing 53 medals in its best showing ever.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's Gu Shiau-shuang secured the last gold of the Games by defending her women's under-50 kg kumite karate title, defeating Kazakhstan's Moldir Zhangbyrbay. This brought Taiwan's gold medal count to 19, matching its best-ever performance achieved in 1998 at the Bangkok Games. And then there's Japan, scoring a win in the men's team kata karate competition on the last day of competition.
"We have hosted the most successful Asian Games in history," said Chen Weiqiang, Executive Secretary General of the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee and vice-mayor of Hangzhou. "It can be said that during the whole 16 days of the competition, the people of Hangzhou basked in a sea of joy."
"I'm very excited, as this is the first Asian Games esports gold medal," said Chinese captain Luo Siyuan.
"Xi Jinping wants to use these Games to showcase that China is still an economic leader, the economic locomotive of Asia ... as a response to Western criticism," said Marcus Chu of Hong Kong's Liangnan University, who researches Chinese sports-politics.