- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

PUSAN, South Korea (UPI) Asia opened its biggest sporting festival yesterday as host South Korea vowed to use the Asian Games to overcome the lingering Cold War legacy in the region.
Under the slogan "New Vision, New Asia," 9,900 athletes from 44 countries from the world's newest nation, East Timor, to the world's most populous nation, China will compete for 420 gold medals in 38 sports.
It is the first time in the 52-year history of the Asian Games that all 43 member nations of the Olympic Council of Asia, the games' governing body, are attending, along with East Timor joining as a provisional member.
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung declared the biggest-ever Asian Games open in front of 60,000 spectators, who packed the newly built Asiad Main Stadium in the country's largest port city.
Cheers erupted as some 10,000 uniformed athletes and officials marched into the stadium. Afghan athletes looked tired after their five-day journey to South Korea, but responded to spectator cheers with waves and smiles.
They marked the country's first return to the international sporting arena since 1994.
The loudest cheers came when athletes from North and South Korea strode into the stadium hand-in-hand and side-by-side, wearing the same uniforms. They marched behind a special "reunification flag" depicting a powder-blue outline of the Korean Peninsula on a white background.
Many spectators vigorously waved the "reunification flags." North Korean flags, strictly banned in South Korea, were also waved by hundreds of North Korean supporters. Display of the North Korean flag is being permitted for the first time in South Korea during the two-week games.
The North's 300-member cheering squad arrived by ship in their country's largest visit to South Korea since the peninsula was split a half-century ago, marking the first time that a North Korean passenger boat has entered South Korean waters.
It is also the first time North Korea has entered an international sports event in South Korea. The reclusive state boycotted the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 World Cup jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan.

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