In an opening ceremony based on Turkmenistan's ancient history and cultural heritage, the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games kicked off on 17 September in Ashagbat, Turkmenistan with historical scenes of the ancient Silk Road, camels, Turkmen horses, traditional music from the country's five regions, and the Turkmen art of carpet making. These are also the first Asia Games to be hosted in Central Asia.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov officially opened the games, twice mentioning UNESCO in his welcoming remarks, focusing on his country's willingness to participate actively in the Organization's Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS) to promote the role and value of sport and its inclusion in public policy. He also emphasized that sports, health and physical education were important priorities for his government.
In addition to this being the first Asia Games hosted taking place in Central Asia, these games will feature other firsts, including the first time that the countries of Oceania are participating and also the first time that the refugees' team competes in the Asian Games.
Ten refugee athletes made history by competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as members of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. One year later, five refugee athletes from South Sudan are making history, yet again, by competing in the Games in Ashgabat. Tegla Loroupe, a Kenyan Olympian who is also a United Nations Ambassador for Sport and Peace, leads the refugee athletes.
Many Heads of State, government officials, representatives of international organizations and other dignitaries attended the opening ceremony. Ms. Esther Kuisch Laroche, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office represented UNESCO.
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