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(LEAD) (Gwangju Swimming) FINA World Championships kick off with celebration of life, peace, prosperity

Sports 21:52 July 12, 2019

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By Yoo Jee-ho

GWANGJU, July 12 (Yonhap) -- The 18th FINA World Championships began Friday with an opening ceremony sending messages of life, peace and prosperity -- in a city with a proud history of democratic movements and whose name translates as "city of light."

Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 18th FINA World Championships at Universiade Gymnasium on Kwangju Women's University campus in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 12, 2019. (Yonhap)

Under the slogan "Dive into Peace," the metropolitan city of Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, will host more than 2,600 athletes from 194 countries through July 28.

They will compete for 76 gold medals in six disciplines: swimming, artistic swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming and water polo. Host South Korea will have its largest world championships team with 82.

With South Korean President Moon Jae-in in attendance, water was the central component of the opening ceremony, titled "Fountain of Light," at Universiade Gymnasium on Kwangju Women's University campus. Water brought in from more than 100 countries was poured into the water fountain at May 18 Democracy Square, a place that commemorates the pro-democracy uprising from that date in 1980.

Performers pour water from around the world into the fountain at May 18 Democracy Square in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, during the opening ceremony of the FINA World Championships on July 12, 2019. (Yonhap)

According to ceremony director Yoon Jeong-seop, the message was about bringing peace and prosperity to mankind with water purified by the light of Gwangju.

"The keys to the opening ceremony were water, democracy, human rights, spirit of peace and art and culture of Gwangju," Yoon said. "The central message is that water from around the world meets the light of Gwangju and solves environmental contamination and other problems that we're facing today."

Following the performance and the presentation of flags of all 194 countries, Moon officially declared the competition open.

"I hope this festival of freedom and friendship will shine brightly," Moon said. "I'd like to thank all residents of Gwangju and volunteers of this competition for their hard work. I want to welcome all the athletes and officials from around the world."

In his welcoming remarks, FINA President Julio Maglione called Gwangju "a dynamic city" that will provide the stage for athletes to delight the crowd with their performances.

The opening ceremony of the 18th FINA World Championships is underway at Universiade Gymnasium on Kwangju Women's University campus in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 12, 2019. (Yonhap)

"The 18th FINA World Championships will provide a strong legacy for the country and city," he said. "And the Korean youth will be inspired by the outstanding results of our aquatic athletes."

Gwangju Mayor Lee Yong-sup, also serving as the head of the event's organizing committee, said this year's championships will "author a new chapter in the history of world sports."

"The FINA World Championships will wrap the world with the comforting aura of peace and will open new doors to an era of eternal peace and prosperity for all of mankind," he said.

Diving preliminaries were held before the opening ceremony Friday, and two South Koreans, Woo Ha-ram in the men's 1m springboard and Kim Su-ji in the women's 1m springboard, qualified for their respective finals.

The competition's first medals will be awarded Saturday in the men's 5km open water swimming, with finals in diving and artistic swimming scheduled later in the day.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in declares the 18th FINA World Championships open during the opening ceremony at Universiade Gymnasium on Kwangju Women's University campus in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 12, 2019. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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