HANGZHOU: China´s eastern city of Hangzhou is set to host the largest Asian Games ever with nearly 12,000 athletes in action. Ahead of Saturday´s opening ceremony, here´s what you need to know about Hangzhou and the Games venues:
An ancient, scenic city at the southern end of the centuries-old Grand Canal, Hangzhou has in recent years become known as the birth place of Jack Ma´s Alibaba and its hugely popular shopping app Taobao. Numerous tech start-ups have set up shop in the city of 12 million people, drawing comparisons to Silicon Valley.
The Games will showcase some of China´s latest tech, including robot dogs, facial recognition and driverless buses. An AI-powered digital assistant named Xiaomo, in the shape of an "elegant girl", will provide sign-language interpretation. Hangzhou is 160 kilometres (100 miles) -- or an hour on a bullet train -- from Shanghai.
The Games will take place at more than 50 venues, most of them in Hangzhou but a few in other cities. The centre piece is a massive flower-shaped stadium capable of hosting 60,000 spectators and will stage the opening and closing ceremonies.
Inspired by the lotuses that bloom on the city´s famed West Lake each summer, the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center was completed in 2018 and been used mainly as a football stadium since.
A lookalike venue nearby, dubbed the "Small Lotus", houses the tennis finals while a butterfly-shaped structure combines the aquatics venue and indoor sports halls.
The vast Asian Games Village will be home to nearly 20,000 athletes, technical officials and journalists in a mini city within a city.
It is spread over 113 hectares (280 acres) and equipped with shops, gyms and a clinic, and is served by two newly opened metro stations.
Dominated by high-rise apartment blocks that will be turned over to residential use after the Games, the village includes a 4,000-person-capacity dining hall serving Chinese and international cuisine.
The 13th-century traveller Marco Polo was smitten with Hangzhou, calling it the "most beautiful and elegant city in the world".
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