Asian Games: China tops table as India gifted cricket gold

The postponed 2022 Asian Games come to a close on Sunday with hosts China predictably topping the medal table. The Games were notable for new sports, cricket rain delays and flag controversy

Breaking boundaries: Breakdancing was a hit at the Asian Games ahead of its Olympic debut in Paris (photo: DW)
Breaking boundaries: Breakdancing was a hit at the Asian Games ahead of its Olympic debut in Paris (photo: DW)


After two weeks of competition involving 12,500 participants from 45 nations and territories in 481 events across 40 sports and 61 disciplines, the postponed 2022 Asian Games came to a close in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday.

Predictably, hosts China top the medal table with a total of 382 medals, 200 of them gold, followed at some distance by Japan (51 golds) and South Korea (42), with just two more finals to come on Sunday in artistic swimming and men's karate.

As well as seeing debuts for new events such as e-sports and breakdancing, the Games have also seen a number of sporting and political controversies.

From a washed-out cricket final to failed doping tests and banned North Korean flags on display.

Breakdancing wows Asian Games ahead of Olympic bow

Ahead of its Olympic debut in Paris next year, breakdancing arrived at the Asian Games in a whirlwind of baggy pants and beats, as "b-boys" and "b-girls" competed in a continental showpiece for the first time.

As a DJ spun tracks and an MC hyped the contestants up, dancers in t-shirts, tracksuits and baseball caps flipped, jigged and spun on their heads to a throbbing beat, cheered on by notably young crowds waving glowsticks.

"It feels really great," said Kim Hong-yul of South Korea, who lost to Shigeyuki Nakarai of Japan in the men's Gold Medal Battle on Saturday. "I've been literally staying with my culture and this culture keeps growing up, and I've been keeping watching it, so I'm happy for it."

The women's gold was won by Qingyi Liu of China who beated Japan's Ami Yuasa in the final, and organizers are hoping that breaking, along with e-sports, can help attract young viewers turned off by traditional Games sports.

When asked whether recognition by big multi-sports events would compromise breakdancing's original counterculture spirit, Kim was confident that the sport could get the balance right.

"Just because it becomes a sport, we're not going get rid of our previous culture, we're going to keep this culture... it's going to be great," he said.

India gifted cricket gold after final wash-out

India's men were awarded cricket gold by virtue of their higher world ranking after the T20 final against Afghanistan was rained off.

After rain stopped play, the match was ultimately abandoned soon after 17:00 local time with Afghanistan at 112-5 after 18.2 overs of the first innings, leaving India unable to bat a minimum required five overs or even start their innings at all.

Unlike in other tournaments, Games regulations don't allow for usual tie-breaking criteria such as runs-per-over or previous performance credentials, with the match being automatically awarded to the higher-ranked team instead, meaning tenth-placed Afghanistan drew the short straw against world number on India.

"Pretty much disappointing, I would say," said Indian captain Ruturaj Gaikwad when asked about the weather. "Obviously we would love to have had a full game .... But that's one thing we cannot control."

Nevertheless, he said that winning a medal "still feels very good, makes us feel very proud. "Being an Indian captain is always a lot of pressure because everyone expects the ultimate prize. Wherever you go, everyone just keeps on saying: 'Win gold, win gold!'"

Kabaddi chaos

It's been an historic Games for India, winning over a century of medals for the first time with 107 in total, including 28 gold, two of which were won on the final Saturday in archery and women's kabaddi - a tag-meets-rugby contact team sport rooted in Indian mythology and said to date back 5,000 years.

But what should have been a day of celebration came with a large dollop of controversy when the men's kabaddi final against Iran descended into chaos and was suspended, before India finally sealed the title.

A captivating match was locked at 28-28 with just over a minute left when India went on a "raid" for points, with both teams claiming they should get the decision.

That sparked a prolonged video review, then a standoff and the suspension of the final, as numerous officials checked the footage and attempted to make a ruling.

The action in what was an eagerly anticipated showdown was put on hold as both teams at different points appeared to refuse to play and argued their case. Order was eventually restored with the score at 31-29 in India's favour.

Iran reluctantly carried on but they were deflated and quickly slumped to a 33-29 defeat, coach Gholamreza Mazandarani pointing the finger at the officials and also accusing the Indian team of putting pressure on the referees.

"This is very bad, very bad for kabaddi," he said of the fractious scenes.

Women's football: North Korea lose to Japan amid flag controversy

Japan retained their Asian Games women's football crown by beating North Korea 4-1 in the gold medal match – despite being booed throughout by the majority of a partisan 35,000 crowd.

And it wasn't just the local fans who were overwhelmingly in favor of the North Koreans, with Games organizers, the Olympic Council of Asia, also attracting criticism from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for allowing the North Korean flag to be displayed throughout the fortnight.

WADA declared North Korea's national anti-doping body "non-compliant" in 2021 and imposed sanctions that remain in place today. They include not being able to fly its flag at any regional, continental or world sports event, excluding the Olympics and Paralympics.

Nevertheless, the North Korean team carried its flag at the opening ceremony in Hangzhou and it has been routinely hoisted at medal ceremonies. In a statement to AFP, WADA said the OCA had breached its obligations as a signatory to its anti-doping code.

"WADA takes this matter extremely seriously and has written to the OCA on several occasions before and after the opening ceremony of the Games, explaining in clear terms the possible consequences that could arise for the OCA if this matter is ignored," it said.

"WADA is disappointed that the OCA has to date not taken steps to comply with the terms of the DPRK's non-compliance," it added, using an acronym for North Korea. "WADA will follow due process to ensure that the appropriate consequences are imposed for the OCA's refusal to meet its signatory obligations."

Asian Games: Doping

Despite its years-long isolation from the global sporting arena, North Korea has produced some eye-opening results on its return, notably in weightlifting, where its competitors have smashed six world records.

Jang Song Nam, manager of the North Korean weightlifting team, said the success was "payback" for their sacrifices over years of Covid isolation.

"Our athletes for these Asian Games have put in so much hard work," he said. "Every gold medal is payback for our hardship over four years. We are world leaders now. We wanted to show our strength, and we did it."

But several rival lifters, including women's world champion Jiang Huihua and men's world champion Li Fabin, both of China, expressed "shock" and "surprise" at the results.

No North Korean weightlifters will participate in next year's Paris Olympics because they failed to take part in mandatory qualifying events earlier this year.

Elsewhere, Wesam Nasser Al-Farsi became the second Saudi Arabian runners to be banned after testing positive for darbepoetin, a blood-booster similar to erythropoietin (EPO). The middle distance runner, who finished in the 3,000m steeplechase last Sunday, became the sixth athlete overall to be banned at the Games.

Turkmenistan's Tejen Tejenov, who took silver in the men's +90kg kurash event, became the first Hangzhou medallist to be banned for doping on Thursday.

Finally, Bahrain's Kemi Adekoya – who was stripped of the 2018 title for doping – won 400m hurdles gold. A former world indoor champion, she claimed at the time her food was spiked.

"I just wanted to fight and get the gold medal, and fight for a new record," she said this week in Hangzhou after clocking a Games-record 54.45 seconds.

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Published: 08 Oct 2023, 9:51 AM