BEIJING - The curtain began to rise for the 16th Asian Games that are to be held in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province, when the torch relay began on Tuesday.
President Hu Jintao lit the Asiad torch at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, marking the official start of the month-long relay.
"I declare the start of the torch relay for the 16th Asian Games," Hu said after handing the flame to the 2008 Beijing Olympic men's 400-meter freestyle swimming silver medalist Zhang Lin.
"The 16th Asian Games will officially open in Guangzhou in one month and it is another high-profile sports event that will be held in China following the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," Liu Peng, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said at the ceremony.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia, expressed his deep gratitude to the Chinese government and Chinese people for the great efforts they have made in preparing for the Guangzhou games.
"We look forward to sharing the enthusiasm and joy of the 16th Asian Games with people across Asia and watching the Asian Games become a great success," he said.
The Asian Games, which are expected to attract more than 12,000 athletes from 45 Asian countries and regions, will be held in Guangzhou from Nov 12 to 27.
The torch for the Asian Games will pass through Harbin in Heilongjiang province, Changchun in Jilin province, and Haiyang in Shandong province before it is taken to the 21 cities in Guangdong province.
More than 2,000 torchbearers, aged from 6 to 100, will participate in the relay.
Kuang Yongshao, aged 100, from Sanshui of Guangdong, has been selected to participate in the torch relay in Foshan city, where he will take part in the event from his wheelchair, Foshan Daily reported.
The first torchbearer, Zhang Lin, is the first Chinese male swimmer to win a world championship title, after placing first in the 800-meter freestyle competition at the World Championships in Rome last year.
The local swimmer said he felt encouraged to be the first torchbearer for the Asiad.
"I'm so excited to be the first torchbearer," Zhang said, relating his happiness at having been chosen to receive the flame from Hu.