International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe was the star guest at the Opening Ceremony of the 22nd edition of the Asian Athletics Championships at the Kalinga Stadium in Indian city Bhubaneswar tonight.
Among the acts who appeared at the Opening Ceremony in the sold out 10,000-capacity Stadium were Bollywood composer and singer Shankar Mahadevan and "Thousand Hands" dance troupe from Thailand.
More than 650 of the continent's athletes from 44 countries are set to contest 42 track and field events when action starts tomorrow.
The event has added significance as all the gold medallists will secure an automatic place for next month’s IAAF World Championships in London.
A total of 13 gold medallists from the last edition of the biennial event, held in Chinese city Wuhan in 2015, will be looking to defend their titles.
Among them is Tajikistan's hammer thrower Dilshod Nazarov, the Olympic gold medallist.
He is aiming to make it a hat-trick of Asian Athletics Championships titles having achieved the same feat at the Asian Games with victories in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
Iran’s Reza Moghaddam and South Korea’s Lee Yun-chul, both of whom have personal bests of 73.50 metres this season, are expected to be Nazarov’s cloest challengers.
China’s Wang Shizhu and Japan’s Ryota Kashimura could also be in contention.
In the women’s hammer throw, the top two finishers in Wuhan - China’s Liu Tingting and Luo Na - are both likely to be strong contenders once more.
Japan’s Akane Watanabe, the bronze medallist two years ago, is also due to compete.
On the track, defending Asian champion and continental record-holder Femi Seun Ogunode of Qatar is the leading name in both the men's 100m and 200m.
Bahrain’s Kemarley Brown and Andrew Fisher are expected to push him hard though with the former a 100m silver medallist at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju and the latter having competed at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year.
They will be striving to threaten Ogunode’s Asian and Championship record of 9.91sec.
Brown and Fisher have been credited with personal bests of 9.93 and 9.94 in recent years.
Home favourite Dutee Chand will be main attraction in the women’s 100m sprint having posted the best Asian time of the season with 11.30 during the Indian Grand Prix in New Delhi in May.
The 200m Asian Championships bronze medallist from 2013 asserted her supremacy over the shorter sprint, finishing runner-up behind Kazakhstan’s Viktoriya Zyabkina at the Kosanov Memorial Athletic Meet in Almaty last week.
Zyabkina along with her elder team-mate Olga Safronova are likely to be Chand’s main challengers.
The Kazakh pair were the respective gold and silver medallists in the 200m in Wuhan and are joined in battling it out for honours once more by bronze medallist Srabani Nanda of India.
India is hosting the event for a third time having also done so in 1989 in New Delhi and 2013 in Pune.