Athletes from all corners of Asia began competing on Friday in the preliminaries of some of the disciplines at the Asian Games, the world's second-biggest multi-sport event, a day before the official opening in Indonesia.

Close to 12,000 athletes from 45 countries will compete until Sept. 2 in 40 different sports in capital Jakarta on Java island, and in Palembang, south Sumatra.

Among the delegations taking part are those from North Korea and South Korea, who will march together under a single flag as they did at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics earlier this year.

Athletes from the two countries will also compete together in several disciplines, including women's basketball - where the combined team got off to a winning start against Indonesia, followed by a defeat to Taiwan - canoeing and rowing.

In addition to basketball, games of football, handball and water polo also began a week before the inauguration of the sporting event, the largest ever to be hosted by Indonesia.

"We have to show that Indonesia is ready to be at the forefront to boost Asia's position in the world," Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in his annual address to the bicameral parliament on Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, Widodo received the Asian Games flame after delivering a speech on the 73rd anniversary of Indonesia's independence from Dutch rule.