|The national flag of the People's Republic of China is carried to the stadium during the opening ceremony of the 6th East Asian Games in north China's Tianjin, Oct. 6, 2013.[Xinhua/Liu Xu]|
The 6th East Asian Games opened amid a scaled-down but still spectacular ceremony in Tianjin on Sunday, highlighting a more cost-conscious approach to sporting events.
About 8,000 spectators and representatives of participating athletes cheered at Tianjin Gymnasium as they witnessed the official launch of the quadrennial sports feast in East Asia, the last before the event undergoes an overhaul.
As the organization committee had pledged to hold the event in a cost-efficient manner, some procedures, such as the torch relay and lighting of the flame, were axed.
Held since 1993, the East Asian Games are an important regional event for delegations from the eight East Asian countries and regions of the Olympic Council of Asia.
This year, 2,422 athletes will compete in 24 sports until Oct 15. Some have a distinct regional flavor, such as dragon boat racing and wushu, or Chinese martial arts.
Wang Jinsheng, an official with the games' organizing committee, said the event has been scaled down.
"Only the necessary procedures and several performances were kept for the opening ceremony, and the site of the ceremony was changed to a gymnasium with a smaller capacity," he said.
The budget was also slashed by one fifth compared to expenditure for the last games in Hong Kong, which cost 240 million yuan ($39.2 million).
Xiao Tian, head of the Chinese delegation and the deputy sports minister, said he expected Chinese mainland athletes to perform well, especially in athletics and swimming.
But he is also looking forward to discovering rising young stars who could be in the reckoning for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
"Young athletes don't get enough chances to compete in major events such as the Olympics and the Asia Games. This will be an ideal chance for them," he said.
Aileen Chu, a sports official from the Pacific island of Guam, said they were encouraging more young athletes to take part in the contest.
"This year we have about 150 athletes registered for the games, much more than previous years. It is difficult for Guam to win a medal and some athletes thought they might lose face. But they have to compete and experience events like this if they want to improve."
Mongolian athlete Khuukhenkhuu Khatanbaatar, taking part in the wushu event, said he is confident of winning a medal in the sport which Mongolia has traditionally been strong at.
The 10-day sporting event will be the last in its present format as future events will be held for youth athletes.
The Council of the East Asian Games Association passed a proposal on Saturday backing a regional youth sports meeting, featuring athletes from 14 to 18 years of age.
The first staging of the East Asian Youth Games is scheduled for 2019. The host city and dates have yet to be decided.