World Championships opens in South Korea

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The 9-day World Championships in Athletics was officially opened in this South Korean city on Saturday evening with a record number of registered athletes.

A 75-minute lavish opening ceremony performance was held at the 66,422-seat Daegu Stadium. It was composed of five parts -- "gathering", "preparing", "awakening", "sprinting" and "dreams coming true".

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak declared the opening of the championships, which is held under the slogan of "Sprint Together for Tomorrow".

A total of 1,945 athletes from 202 countries and regions will be competing for medals in the other 46 events, after Kenya's three runners have swept the women's marathon on Saturday morning. Of this year's athletes, 1,046 are men and 899 are women.

The United States sends the largest number of athletes with a total of 155, followed by Russia's 73, Britain's 59 and Germany's 57.

Caribbean formidable athletics power Jamaica fields a total of 49 athletes, led by star sprinter Usain Bolt. Two African powers, Kenya and Ethiopia, have sent 47 and 46 athletes, respectively.

China sends 43 athletes, including its star hurdler Liu Xiang. South Korea, as the host nation, is allowed to enter one athlete in each event and it eventually sends 45 athletes.

Daegu, in southeastern part of the country, previously hosted the 2003 Summer Universiade and three matches of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It has a total population of some 2.5 million.

The first World Championships opened in 1983. The International Association of Athletics Federations, the athletics governing body, organizes the competition which is staged every two years.

Of the 212 IAAF members, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Andorra, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Nepal, Norfolk Island, Libya, Georgia and Montserrat will not be represented in Daegu.

Following the opening ceremony, the final of women's 10,000 meters will take place and produce the other gold medal on Day 1 of the Daegu worlds. Kenya is expected to continue their hunt for medals with three powerful runners -- Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot, Linet Masai and Priscah Jepleting Cherono.

Lightning Bolt will make his first appearance in Daegu on Saturday night, when he is expected to run in the first round of qualifications in the men's 100m race.

With Bolt, the men's 100m is one of the most exciting and eye-catching events in the Daegu worlds, though Bolt's arch-rivals, including his teammate Asafa Powell and American Tyson Gay, have pulled out of the event because of injuries.

Though people don't know how fast Bolt will run this time, yet a new world record is probably unlikely. Bolt himself has admitted that it was a comeback season for him, and he didn't think of 9.5 seconds. His person best is 9.58 seconds, current world record which he achieved in August of 2009.

Another exciting and highlighting event at Daegu worlds will be the men's 110m hurdles.

Daegu will see the first championship clash of hurdling's current big three -- world record holder and 2008 Olympic champion Cuban Dayron Robles, former world record holder and 2004 Olympic champion China's Liu Xiang, and 2011 fastest man American David Oliver.

They are also the three fastest men in the history of the event -- Robles, 12.87 seconds, Liu 12.88, Oliver 12.89. The final here, should all three men make it, will be their first meeting in a final at a global championships.

The men's 110m hurdles will start qualification races on Sunday morning. The semifinal will take place at 7:00 p.m. local time in Daegu on Monday. And the final will be held at 9:25 p.m., just two hours and 25 minutes after the semifinal.

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