Guangzhou ready to host Asia's largest multi-sport event

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The Independent Online

They've brought in the pandas and snuffed out the barbecues as the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou pulls out the stops as it prepares to host the 16th Asian Games, the region's largest multi-sport event.

The games ( - which will run from November 12-27 at 60 venues (12 of them new) spread out all over Guangzhou - will this year feature 11,700 athletes representing 45 countries and regions.

In all, they will be battling it out for 476 gold medals in both traditional sporting events such as track and field and swimming as well as sports more familiar in these parts, such as cricket, the Chinese martial arts-based sport of wushu and sepaktakraw - the Asian form of volleyball in which team members are only allowed to use their feet.

It's the biggest event so far hosted by the sprawling metropolis of Guangzhou, part of the bustling Pearl River Delta region that also includes Shenzhen and Hong Kong and boasts that it is the "factory of the world'' due to the thousands of factories that dot the landscape.

Guangzhou also welcomed six giant pandas, on loan from Chengdu, to help add to the party atmosphere while bringing in a ban on barbecue pits as the city tries to keep its notoriously polluted air a little clean.

The Asian Games is an event traditionally dominated by the massive Chinese sporting machine and this year looks to be no different - the host nation is sending 977 athletes to Guangzhou, among them 35 who are already Olympic champions.

And Chinese officials - still basking in the reflective glow from the 2008 Beijing Olympics - are expecting nothing less than total domination. There are reports that Guangzhou has spent over 100 billion yuan (10 billion euro) on the event, not just building new venues but upgrading the city's infrastructure.

"We want our athletes to show their fighting spirit ... and maintain our leading position in the rankings,'' an official told the China Daily newspaper this week.

Other countries have meanwhile already conceded defeat in the medals race with Japan officials saying the real battle will be for which nation comes second in the medal tally.

16th Asian Games
November 12-27
Guangzhou, China