WUHAN, China –
U.S. service members watched colorful pageantry Friday evening during the opening ceremony for the 7th CISM Military World Games.
CISM, or the Council of International Sports for Military, holds the games every four years with more than 100 nations participating Oct. 18-27 in 32 sports from soccer to track and field.
Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million nestled in central China’s Hubei province, hosted the ceremonies after spending years preparing for the games, erecting dozens of towering apartment buildings to house the 10,000 athletes.
Army Capt. Anna Feygina carried the U.S. flag into the Wuhan Sports Center stadium in front of the American delegation marching in dress uniforms. A judo competitor, she serves as a Trial Defense Service attorney at Fort Hood, Texas.
Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the games, followed by a dazzling light show involving thousands of dancers, performers, military marchers, and acrobats.
As thousands of Chinese dancers clad in neon-glowing jackets crowded the stage, Air Force Col. Derrick Weyand gasped at the spectacle.
“That blew my mind,” said Weyand, who serves as team captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team. "That was a once-in-a-lifetime opening ceremony. The choreography and the technical capability … very overwhelmed and pleased.”
“It was very creative, very colorful,” said Army Spc. Devon Nicole Lewis, a Taekwondo competitor from Fort Carson, Colorado, about the show that lasted more than two hours. “The storyline was pretty interesting.”
The opening ceremony show began with fur-clad tribesmen roaming the prehistoric Yangtze river, with the stadium floor opened revealing a flowing river through which they waded.
“I’ve never seen anything quite so amazing,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Kevin Jackson, especially about the water flowing through the stadium. “It was incredible,” added the swimming competitor from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
The performance used a dazzling array of LED displays and lighting to form three-dimensional images. The displays impressed the U.S. athletes.
“I was surprised,” said U.S. soccer midfielder and Navy Lt. Emily Wilkin of the USS Makin Island, birthed in San Diego. “I had heard that the opening ceremonies were kind of a special event, but you never really know until you get in there and I thought it was truly a beautiful ceremony.”
Renowned Chinese film star Jackie Chan also took part in the festivities, and more than one U.S. athlete remarked that the ceremony was “unbelievable.”
The ceremony had hundreds of colorful dancers under a gigantic tapestry that floated across the stadium.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Army Sgt. Alan Ibarra-Lepe, a soccer player from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wahsington. He was especially awed by the dozens of acrobats who later hovered hundreds of feet above the stadium floor, including one depicting an astronaut.
The astronaut grabbed the attention of Air Force Lt. Col. Marci Walton, women’s soccer team captain, because she currently teaches an Air Power history class at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. She said that she “tuned into” the history to see if it “related to anything I am teaching in the classroom” and some of it did.
“It definitely makes you feel like you’re a part of something big and grand,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jamel Johnson of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who is wrestling in the 133-pound freestyle division. “And now you get a chance to go out there and show what your country has to do.”
A lighting of the World Games torch culminated the ceremonies, brought in by a relay of runners stationed across the stadium.