A fitting finale

A grand finale, which comprised a breathtaking display of colour and lights, marked the closing ceremony of the first Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad.

ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA

Actress Tabu with `Sheeroo,' the Afro-Asian Games Mascot, during the closing ceremony at the GMC Balayogi Stadium, in Hyderabad. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

A grand finale, which comprised a breathtaking display of colour and lights, marked the closing ceremony of the first Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad. The ceremony, which was well co-ordinated, exhibited a variety of cultures. Although there were a few common elements between the opening and closing ceremonies, this aspect could be overlooked for the whole show made a good impact and brought the curtains down in a befitting manner.

Samba dancers enthral the fans even as lasers light up the sky. The different cultures of the two continents were on display on the final day. — Pic. V. SIVAKUMAR-

The President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam declared the Games closed and several dignitaries and sports administrators were at hand to grace the occasion. They included Suresh Kalmadi, IOA President, Randhir Singh, OCA Secretary General, Alfa Ibrahim Diallo, President of the Associated National Olympic Committees of Africa, Vikram Verma, Union Minister for Sports and of course the man whose initiative made everything possible N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

The CM drew a round of applause when he made a fervent plea for India to make a strong bid to host the Olympics and said that Hyderabad was ready to be the venue for this mega event. But all said and done, one felt that the speeches could have been restricted to the minimum on such an occasion.

The fireworks display was truly remarkable. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

The fireworks display was truly remarkable and lit up the night sky. Anchor Yukta Mukhi , former beauty queen did a commendable job and the cultural segments were interesting, particularly the acrobatics by the State circus of China. The songs rendered by singers such as Diana Haddad and Hisham Abbas brought the ambience of the deserts to the city of Hyderabad. India's own singers such as Hariharan and Remo Fernandes provided the Indian touch to the programme and regaled the audience. But the surprising aspect was the paltry number of sportspersons who were available to take part in the closing march past. Generally at the closing ceremony of an event such as this, the march past on the final day will find the sportspersons in a relaxed mood after having gone through all the stress and tension of the sports tournaments. The participants have a chance to relax and mingle with each other and interact with the spectators. The festive atmosphere, usually witnessed during the closing ceremonies, provided a feeling of emotional bonding and friendship. So it was surprising to see just a handful of sportspersons trooping into the stadium and marching past the dais. Many of the participants had already left the venue it was learnt and this was the reason behind the poor turn out. This was something, which could have been avoided with a better planning.

Another aspect that disappointed many sports lovers was the mismanagement of the issuing of complimentary passes and tickets for the closing ceremony. Hundreds of genuine ticket holders were refused entry into the stadium by securitymen manning the gates. The reason being that the stadium was already full and there was no more space to accommodate the ticket holders. Many of them had come from faraway places but had to return home disappointed. To add injury to insult some were roughed up by the securitymen. They left the venue with bitter feelings that they had been cheated of their money. They had come with the hope of viewing the closing finale of what was one of the most magnificent sports events ever held in Hyderabad but their hopes were dashed. This was the major blemish to an otherwise well-conceived ending to a thrilling sports extravaganza.