JAKARTA: The 18th Asian Games closed at a glittering ceremony in Jakarta Sunday night, bringing down the curtain on a two-week tournament featuring 40 sports.
Thousands of athletes in ponchos marched in heavy rain at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium.
“I declare the 18th Asian Games closed,” said Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia.
“You did it! You made the energy of Asia come through… Jakarta has the capability to host any such major international event,” he added.
Thailand now are looking forward to glory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the Asian Games in Indonesia which drew to a close Sunday night.
While the successful athletes at Jakarta Palembang 2018 have legitimate reasons to aim for Olympic medals, those who failed to live up to expectations in Indonesia are hoping to make amends in Tokyo.
At the 18th Asiad, the Kingdom won 11 gold medals, well below their pre-tournament target of 17, and were 12th overall, also missing their aim of a top-six finish.
At Incheon 2014, Thailand claimed 12 titles and finished sixth overall.
(Final medal table below)
It was athletes in non-Olympic sports who played key roles in salvaging some pride for the Thai contingent in Indonesia.
The Kingdom claimed a total of seven gold medals in non-Olympic disciplines – four in sepak takraw, two in paragliding and one in jet skiing.
The other titles were won in Olympic sports – taekwondo (two), shooting (one) and cycling (one).
One of the two taekwondo gold medals came in poomsae (dance) which does not feature at the Olympics.
In all, only three Thai athletes won golds in Olympic sports – taekwondo figther Panipak Wongpattanakit, skeet shooter Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit and cyclist Jai Angsuthasawit.
China topped the medals table for the 10th Games in succession, a streak stretching back to New Delhi 1982, with a runaway 132 golds while Japan secured a confidence-boosting second place with 75 ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which begin in less than two years.
Some 11,000 athletes from across the continent gathered in Indonesia for the world’s largest multisport event after the Olympics, and with Japan moving ahead of close rivals South Korea for the first time since 1994, the host nation of the next Olympics can take plenty of positives away.
This matched Japan’s best gold-medal performance at the quadrennial tournament in 44 years, and just three short of the 78 it won 52 years ago in Bangkok. But this was before the arrival of China as Asia’s power.
“This is far better than we expected,” Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japan delegation, said through an interpreter. “But achieving 75 gold medals at the Asian Games doesn’t mean 30 golds at the Olympics.
“We cannot be over-confident,” he added. “This is one of our enemies.”
The bar is high for Tokyo. Japan won only 12 gold medals two years ago, and their high mark is 16 in 2004 in Athens.
“This is not an unrealistic goal,” Yamashita said.
“It was established calmly and carefully by analysing each team and athlete.” He said results could change funding for sports and athletes in the two-year run-up to Tokyo.
Meanwhile hosts Indonesia easily surpassed their initial gold medal target of 16 and ended fourth on the medal table with 31 titles, including 14 in the martial art of pencak silat.
Indonesia’s gold medal total in the 16-day event involving 45 countries and regions and featuring 465 medal events across 40 sports was their best-ever and highest finish on the medal table since they ranked second in 1962.
The success in hosting the event in Jakarta and Palembang, the South Sumatra provincial capital, has encouraged Jakarta to investigate a bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games.
IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed Indonesia’s early interest, dismissing the city’s choking traffic and widespread poverty.
He said only two other countries had expressed interest – India and Germany – with formal bid still years away. The winner would be picked in 2025.
Paris will host the 2024 Olympics followed by Los Angeles in 2028.
“You see that Indonesia is on the move,” Bach said “And you see the enthusiasm of the people. It’s a very young country. This of course also makes it very interesting for the IOC.”
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, whose motorcycle-stunt-riding entrance to the opening ceremony went viral, is skipping the closing ceremony to remain on Lombok Island where many residents have evacuated following a series of major earthquakes since late July.
The regional festival of sports also highlighted a display of unity between North and South Korea as they competed in combined teams for the first time in basketball, rowing and canoeing, winning one gold, one silver and two bronze.
Japan won gold in team triathlon in the only event Sunday just hours ahead of the closing ceremony. South Korea took silver.
The Big Three of China, Japan and South Korea (49) were followed in the gold-medal ranking order by: Indonesia (31), Uzbekistan (21), Iran (20) and Taiwan (17). India and Kazakhstan each had 15 followed by North Korea and Bahrain with 12 while Thailand had 11.
Some 135 players from 18 countries took part in esports, or competitive video gaming, which was held as a demonstration event for the first time at the Asiad, ahead of a full medal inclusion at the 2022 edition in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Ikee first female MVP
Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee became the first female athlete to be named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) at an Asian Games Sunday after the teenager scooped an unprecedented six gold medals in the Jakarta pool.
Only North Korean shooter So Gin Man, who won seven golds and a silver at New Delhi in 1982, has won more titles at one Asian Games but the 18-year-old Ikee also picked up two relay silvers to match So’s record tally of eight medals.
All six golds were achieved in Games record times and her achievement was made all the more remarkable as she arrived in Jakarta immediately after the Pan Pacific championships, where she won a gold, two silvers and a bronze.
Ikee, whose gold medal haul is the most for a female athlete at a single Games, was the unanimous choice for the most valuable player award, the Olympic Council of Asia said Sunday.