A woman weighing 97 pounds or less will win the first gold medal of the 1990 Asian Games on Sunday.

Odds are that she will be China's 17-year-old Xing Fen, a two-time world weightlifting champion, and that China will go on to snare the biggest share of the 308 golds at stake in the 16-day Games.The Games formally opened Saturday with drumming, dancing, fanfares and parachute landings by skydivers carrying the flags of the 37 participating nations.

Olympic Council of Asia Vice President Roy De Silva of Sri Lanka, who delivered a speech on behalf of the late council president, Sheikh Fahd Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, said Fahd's death in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait left "a void in the celebration."

"He died defending his fatherland. What better death can a man have?" De Silva asked.

The words were greeted with applause, as was the entry of the 54-member team from Fahd's native Kuwait.

Last Thursday, the council voted to oust Iraq from the Games and suspend its council membership until the Kuwaiti national Olympic committee is able to function normally again.

Iraq was absent. But nearly 4,700 athletes are expected to battle in 27 sports.

On Sunday, the first day of competition, three gold medals will be decided in women's weightlifting - new to the Games - along with four in swimming and one in men's team gymnastics.

China is the runaway world leader in women's weightlifting, in which nine golds will be decided over the next three days.

Sunday's competition is in the 97-, 106- and 114-pound divisions. China has world record holders in all three.