• Kyodo

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A total of 289 Japanese athletes and officials flew into Pusan on Thursday as the main delegations of China and South Korea also arrived in the Asian Games host city three days before the official opening day.

Soccer players were among Japan’s first group of 33 to arrive at Gimhae International Airport, while swimmers, judoka and volleyball and softball players followed on a chartered plane to be greeted by chanting fans waving Japanese flags.

“I hope this will turn out to be the best Asian Games ever. I had hoped for 65 gold medals in Bangkok four years ago and we fell short of that goal, but I’m aiming for the same number again this time,” Japanese delegation head Teruji Kogake said.

About 300 Chinese athletes, including basketball star Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets’ No. 1 draft pick, flew in later Thursday while a similar-sized South Korean delegation arrived by train and bus.

Japan’s delegation — the country’s largest-ever dispatched to an overseas sports event — comprises 658 athletes and 196 officials.

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