A spectacular show

A. VINOD

The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam declares open the 32nd National Games in Hyderabad. Others in the picture are (l to r): Amitabh Bachchan, the then Andhra Pradesh Governor, C. Rangarajan, the IOA President, Suresh Kalmadi and the Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.-K. GOPINATHAN

IT was not only in terms of the facilities which were on offer that Hyderabad proved to be quite a different venue from the centres where the National Games had been held so far. The eye for detail among the organisers was evident not only in the conduct of the Games, but also in the manner in which they crafted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 10-day event.

Both these ceremonies were soul-stirring affairs marked by pomp and gaiety. Though quite elaborate what with the programme stretching a little over four hours, it was still an unforgettable experience as the opening ceremony went on without any hitch and successfully bridged several elements of the ancient with the modern, in such style.

The packed house at the G.M.C. Balayogi Stadium could not have asked for more. It was also satisfying to note that the organisers gave due importance to the protocol part of the ceremony which began with three Chetak helicopters belonging to the Indian Air Force and an equal number of Suryakirans doing an impressive flypast over the venue.

A colourful scene from the Opening Ceremony.-M. MOORTHY

The marchpast of the participating teams, with Punjab as the medal topper of the last Games in the front and the host Andhra Pradesh bringing up the rear, followed next before the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, warmly welcomed the participants. Naidu, in his short address, also underscored the need among the youth to dream big if they were to succeed in their endeavours.

The IOA President, Suresh Kalmadi, urged the participants to follow the spirit of fairplay and also thanked the local organising committee for its efforts in ensuring top class facilities for the Games. Kalmadi before he invited the President, A.P.J. Kalam, also presented a memento on behalf of the IOA to the country's first citizen.

The President also dwelt on the need among the youth to think big even as he urged parents and teachers to promote sporting activities among schoolchildren in a big way. The President also highlighted the necessity to bring the body and mind together in an integrated way for anyone to succeed in life. He then formally declared open the Games.

The IOA flag was thereafter brought in smartly by six NCC cadets to the accompaniment of the AP Police pipe band. The unfurling of the flag was followed by the entry of the much-awaited Games torch into the stadium. After it was taken around the stadium by several former internationals, the Games flame was lit jointly by two-time Olympian Eswara Rao and former volleyball international Mulini Reddy.

The VIP line-up at the Closing Ceremony (l to r): Kalmadi, Dr. Rangarajan, the Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Chandrababu Naidu.-K. RAMESH BABU

The crowd was also treated to a brilliant pyrotechnic display and a hi-tech laser display as the Flame, which was lit into a specially built area inside the field of the stadium, got itself transferred to a huge cauldron on the eastern side of the galleries. Three-time Olympian Mukesh Kumar, thereafter, took the Games oath on behalf of the 7,000-odd participants while badminton referee N. Sudhakar, read out the oath on behalf of the officials.

With the protocol part of the ceremony over, the stage was set for the cultural extravaganza. What in fact set the tempo of the show was the rendition of ''Vande Matram'' by a 20-member choir group led by the popular and evergreen playback singer, S. P. Balasubramaniam. This was followed by the introduction of the Games mascot, Veera — an Ongole bull — dressed in white, blue and red. The mascot was led to the venue by dancing schoolchildren to the tune of a specially choreographed song.

The main course of the cultural show, aptly named `the Spirit of India' was thereafter introduced to the audience by the film star, Amitabh Bachchan, who in his short speech also underlined the importance of unity in diversity. Each of the segments of the multi-part programme turned out to be a unique experience as Sukhvinder Singh, Usha Uthup, Remo and Ila Arun brought the crowd to their feet time and again. The excitement of the huge throng reached a crescendo as the 'Sounds of the South' performance, led by drummer Sivamani along with Vikku Vinayakaram and Selva Ganesh, was performed by over 600 drummers.

Equally captivating was the performance of calisthenics by schoolchildren and the rendition of a specially composed National Games song by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy even as 3,500 participants drawn from various parts of the country danced to the tune of the music which filled the evening air.

The closing ceremony, graced by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was comparatively short when compared with the Opening Ceremony. Yet, there was no shortage of thrills before the Games receded into the pages of history.

The mascot Veera, is the focus of attention as the athletes assemble at the Closing Ceremony.-K. RAMESH BABU

The show once again was hi-tech with a conscious attempt not to trample on the protocol part of the ceremony, which saw the IOA President, Kalmadi pay rich tributes to the organisers before declaring the Games closed. In his brief address, the Prime Minister too hailed the efforts of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and the rest of the organising committee in making available the best of facilities to the participants of the Games.

The Prime Minister also drew a heavy round of applause when he declared that his Government would support any bid made by the IOA to bring the Olympic Games to the country before awarding the Raja Bhalendra Singh Trophy to host Andhra Pradesh and the two individual awards to swimmers Rehan Poncha (Karnataka) and Richa Mishra (Andhra Pradesh).

Also to share the limelight was former Miss Universe Aishwarya Rai who made a brief appearance to bid farewell to the Games mascot, Veera, and to urge the youth of the country to pursue sporting activities with renewed vigour. The leading lights of the Telugu filmworld were then to take the centre-stage alongwith scores of schoolchildren in the cultural extravaganza which followed.

The highlight of this part was the rendition of the specially choreographed song, Hum Hain Hindustani, and the son-et-lumiere show which lit up the darkened stadium with lasers, lights, space cannons, smokescreens and fireworks.