China's President Xi Jinping opened the COVID-delayed 19th Asian Games in the Eastern city of Hangzhou during a spectacular and at times raucous ceremony on Saturday, which organizers hope will lift the mood in a nation struggling with an economic slump.

Spectators in the city's 80,000 capacity stadium let out a huge roar as Xi was introduced and walked in to sit with visiting dignitaries including International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Syria President Bashar al-Assad.

The Games, delayed by a year due to China's measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, will be the country's biggest sporting event in over a decade in several metrics, with around 12,000 athletes from 45 nations competing in 40 sports.