JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of spectators cheered wildly as athletes from the rival Koreas paraded side-by-side behind a “unification” flag in a spectacular opening ceremony for the Asian Games.
The two countries, still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, have fielded 60 athletes in combined teams along with larger contingents for their respective national squads. North and South Korean athletes are competing together in several sports including women’s basketball and rowing.
South Korea Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and several North Korean ministers watched as the athletes, many holding hands, paraded by in blue and white uniforms behind South Korean basketballer Lim Yung-hui and North Korean soccer player Ju Kyong Chol, who together carried the flag.
Some 42,000 people packed the Bung Karno stadium in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Saturday evening for an elaborate ceremony showcasing diverse Indonesian culture.
Aside from the rousing applause for the Koreans, teams from Palestine, Syria, Taiwan and Indonesia received extra bursts of enthusiasm from the crowd.
The evening began with a slickly produced video portraying Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo stuck in traffic — a witty play on one of Jakarta’s major challenges in hosting the games — donning a black helmet and jumping a motorbike over a ramp to reach the stadium in time.
The motorbike shown in the video sped into the stadium and its helmeted driver disappearing into a tunnel before the real Jokowi appearing in the VIP area.
By NINIEK KARMINI , Associated Press