(CNN) -- China rekindled memories of the 2008 Olympics with a spectacular opening ceremony for the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou on Friday.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao formally began the event, which will be the largest in its 59-year history with 28 Olympic and 14 non-Olympic sports and 476 gold medals to be won.
China, which won a leading 166 golds at the previous competition in Qatar four years ago, has a delegation of 1,454 members including Olympic champion hurdler 110-meter hurdler Liu Xiang and badminton star Lin Dan.
He Chong, who won diving gold in Beijing, capped a massive fireworks display in the middle of the Pearl River on Haixinsha Island by ignited a giant flare to light the cauldron that houses the Asiad flame.
Afghanistan's athletes were the first of the 45 nations taking part to parade, with China concluding the march with Olympic women's rowing champion Jin Ziwei as flag bearer.
"Remember, you are part of history right here, right now," Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, of Kuwait, said in front of 30,000 people attending the ceremony.
"Please show us your best performance, and show us the spirit of sportsmanship, fair play, friendship and respect to your fellow athletes and officials."
The event's official website reported that Guangdong Province built and updated 70 stadiums for the competition, which runs until November 27, and that 900,000 volunteers will be on hand.
It said since winning hosting rights in 2004, Guangzhou officials have given out one million brochures and sent 40 million text messages to teach its citizens better manners, including instructions on how to smile.
This year, cricket, dance sports, dragon-boat racing, roller sports and Go chess will make their debut appearances in the competition.