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'Road of Asia' paves way to 2010 Guangzhou Games
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In move widely being compared to the Olympic torch's progress from Athens to Beijing prior to the 2008 Games, delegates from Guangzhou last month embarked on their extraordinary Road of Asia initiative. This grand tour will see the delegates visiting all 45 nations participating in the 16th Asian Games, scheduled to take place in Guangzhou in November 2010.

The delegation will be visiting the 45 Asian nations and regions via ancient Chinese marine and land silk roads. Its mission is to promote the Games, expand ties and build friendly relations among all the participants before the event begins on November 12 next year.

The Road of Asia initiative was conceived as the key promotional and cultural exchange vehicle for the run-up to the 2010 Asian Games. It has been launched under the joint auspices of the Olympic Council and the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (GAGOC).

Yuan Donghua, director of the Road of Asia delegation and deputy director of the general office of GAGOC, said: "Many Asian nations and regions have showed their confidence and sent their best wishes for a truly successful and memorable sporting event.

"The Gulf nations are particularly looking forward to the event. They share our belief that the it will be the largest and most successful in the history of the Asian Games."

Yuan led the Road of Asia delegation in its visit to two Gulf nations, Iran and Oman, in a trip that spanned late March to early April this year.

The delegation met local sports officials, members of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia. During the trip, the delegation outlined the program for the 16th Asian Games and briefed their foreign counterparts on the ongoing preparatory work for the event.

Commenting on the importance of the trip, Yuan said: "The Asian Games is the most important sporting fixture to be held in China in 2010. The GAGOC will spare no effort in promoting and organizing a truly memorable event."

Echoing Yuan's sentiments, Avneri Zade, secretary-general of the Iranian Olympic Committee, said: "Guangzhou is a beautiful city and has the ability to stage a hugely memorable and well-organized event. I firmly believe that the 16th games will build on the success of its predecessor, the 2006 Asian Games held in Qatar."

As a sign of its support for 2010 Games, Iran is sending a 750-strong delegation to Guangzhou, including 350 men and 150 female athletes. The Iranian teams will compete in some 40 of the sports on offer, including football, basketball, handball and track and field events.

The total number of Iranian athletes participating in the 2010 event is exactly double the number that took part in the 2006 Games.

Following its highly successful trip to Iran, the Road of Asia delegation received a similarly rapturous reception in Muscat, the capital of Oman. The team was officially welcomed by officials from the National Olympic Committee of Oman at a specially-staged press conference.

The Secretary-General of the Oman Olympic Committee, Hilal Ali Al Sinani, attended the meeting and signed and stamped the commemorative book for the initiative

Speaking at the event, Sinani said: "China is a hugely important country. We are very proud of the warm relationship between China and Oman.

"The whole world has witnessed the rapid development of the Chinese economy. I believe the success of the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games will further enhance China's reputation on the international stage."

As part of their presentation, the Chinese representatives emphasized that the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games and the Muscat 2010 Asian Beach Games represented a great opportunity for the two countries to work together and develop greater mutual understanding.

Oman will be sending more than 80 athletes to Guangzhou and will be competing in between 10 to 12 events.

In something a departure for the 99 percent Muslim country, Oman will be sending a team of seven female athletes to compete for the first time.

Following the hugely positive reactions from the Oman visit, Yuan said: "I believe the level of enthusiasm being shown for the 2010 Games shows that this is going to be a hugely successful sporting festival. I hope sport fans across China and all of Asia will join me in supporting it."

The 16th Asian Games will take place in Guangzhou between November 12-27 next year.

With teams from 45 different countries and more than 464 separate events planned, it is set to be the largest and most high profile Asian Games ever staged.

This is the second time that China has played host to the event. The 11the Asian games were staged in Beijing back in 1990.

(China Daily April 13, 2009)

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