Grand spectacle

BY all means, it was Hyderabad's tyrst with sporting history. The grand spectacle of the opening ceremony for the inaugural edition of the Afro-Asian Games (October 24 to November 1) was a truly scintillating fare on all fronts.

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

BY all means, it was Hyderabad's tyrst with sporting history. The grand spectacle of the opening ceremony for the inaugural edition of the Afro-Asian Games (October 24 to November 1) was a truly scintillating fare on all fronts.

Grand spectacleMahatma Gandhi's Dandi march enacted on stage was loudly cheered by the audience. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

And, rather strangely, there were more VIPs in the stadium to witness the opening gala than sports enthusiasts, because the organisers sold only 4000 tickets of Rs. 500 each citing security reasons. Conveniently they chose to ignore the fact that they had in fact taken the thousands of sports enthusiasts for a ride. The stadium with a capacity of 30,000 could have comfortably accommodated at least 15,000 members of the public even if one deducts the athletes and officials who totalled 3500 according to official figures. Clearly, thousands of fans were denied a chance to be there to witness a spectacular show.

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The lighting of the torch, which is always one of the most keenly awaited segments and kept a guarded secret for obvious reasons for any opening ceremony, had definitely an element of surprise and a pleasant one from the host's point of view. Sydney Olympic Games bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari was specially flown in from Patiala to be given the rare privilege. "It is one of the finest days in my career," remarked Malleswari later. "I will never forget this great event and the entire show was truly enthralling and could match the best of the opening ceremonies in recent memory," she added.

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The official host and former Miss World, Priyanka Chopra, may not have made as big an impression on the audience as did the megastar Amitabh Bachchan at the National Games opening ceremony last November at the same venue. But, it seemed the event managers formed the entire programme in such a way that she didn't have a great role. For, the anchoring was done by the familiar voice of Jasdev Singh and Komal Singh. And, there were quite a few raised-eyebrows when she fumbled by saying "Two spirits and one Continent" when the theme of the Games was just the other way round — "Two Continents & one spirit."

The rendition of Atha Swagatham by noted playback singers S. P. Balasubramaniam and Usha along with 200 children and 300 Kuchipudi dancers, after the Games were declared open. -- Pic. K. R. DEEPAK-

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The Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was the `real hero' of the evening as the grand spectacle of opening ceremony unfolded, reflecting his commitment and determination. The Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani, who formally declared the Games open, started off saying: "History is made here today." He also showed his wit referring to the blooming of the centre stage, which was designed in the shape of a Lotus bud, quipping: "Naturally, I love to see the lotus bloom in full splendour." He was apparently reminding the audience of his party's symbol — the lotus.

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Suresh Kalmadi, President of the Indian Olympic Association, with the traditional Maharashtra headgear on was the cynosure of all eyes on the VIP dais. And, his face lit up in delight when the CM gave him a new name, calling him Suresh "Khelmadi" for his profound love and interest in promoting sports. A description, which evoked loud cheers from the crowd, too.

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Film stars Mahima Choudhary, Urmila Matondkar and Simran perform a dance number. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

His Excellency Sheikh Al Fahad Ahmed Al Sabha, Energy Minister of Kuwait and President of the Olympic Council of Asia, openly supported India's bid for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. "Trust Asia and India to host the Games. Trust Mr. Naidu and Hyderabad to rise to the occasion too," he remarked, addressing the Commonwealth delegation, which was scheduled to head for Jamaica to take part in the bidding which decides who should host the Games.

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It was pleasing to note the striking contrasts the event-managers Wizcraft opted for during the entire show. For instance, the transition from the violent battle of Kalinga during the enactment of Emperor Asoka's reign to the times of repentance were beautifully recreated amidst the backdrop of settings and wonderful background score to give a touch of near-reality. The Dandi March was yet another example of how the organisers juxtaposed history and pyrotechnics to come off with a perfect blend.

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To cap it all, the 15-minute demonstration of strength by the 20-member troupe of Shaolin monks (kung fu experts) was the highlight of the entire evening's programme. It was a stunning blend of speed, flexibility and remarkable coordination of mind and body, which had the audience spell bound. The Beijing youngsters stole the hearts with a high quality fare.