If an event, game, series, or discussion kicks off, or is kicked off, it begins.
The shows kick off on October 24th. [VERB PARTICLE]
The Mayor kicked off the party. [VERB PARTICLE noun]
1. [intransitive/transitive] informal to begin, or to begin something
The show kicks off this week at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco.
I learned from several dictionaries that the phrasal verb “kick off” is both transitive and intransitive. In that case, in the eighth sentence of the following paragraph, do both “kicked off” and “kicking off” sound natural to you, native speakers of English. I mean can I use both expressions interchangeably in the context of the following paragraph?
Although, volunteer positions in Hustai are available year-round, most volunteers choose the spring, summer, and fall months, because winters in the Mongolian steppes are bitterly cold and inhospitable. Perhaps the very best time to visit is July, when herdsmen come from miles around to participate in the three-day Naadam Festival, an ancient and colorful competition of horse racing, archery, and wrestling-once called the "three manly games." The Naadam Festival started a religious event but has evolved into a celebration of Mongolian statehood. The horse race, with thousands of horses competing, takes place not on a track, but over high-altitude Mongolian grassland. The race is a long-distance one, (kicked off/kicking off) with a special song ("Giin-Goo") that all the horses know. The jockeys are children, ages 7 to 12, who wear colorful costumes. The top five winners are celebrated in poetry and song.