Parting with sadness


IT is all a thing of the past by now. Yet, among the many images which will remain of the 14th Asian Games would be the grand spectacle that the city of Busan arranged to bid goodbye to the principal characters of the exciting 16-day event. And much like the occasions on which the farewell of loved ones to a distant land are soaked with sadness, the 70-minute closing ceremony had moments of distress and melancholy as the nearly 10,000 participants of the biggest ever Asian Games bid au revoir to South Korea's second largest city.

A scene from the Asian Games Closing Ceremony. The 70-minute show was brilliantly crafted.-V. SUDERSHAN

Though consciously crafted to reflect the mood of such an occasion, the ceremony still had enough of dance, music and warmth after the early arrivals at the Busan Asian Games main stadium were treated to spectacular video presentation of the highlights of the Games.

The programme, as the appointed hour arrived, began with a group of children, full of curiosity, making their way into the centre and enacting a drama as if involving themselves in a sporting competition to the accompaniment of the traditional Korean drum and the popular folk song, ''Arirang".

The stage was then set for the protocol part of the ceremony which got underway with the entry of the athletes and officials from two opposite gates, to a standing ovation from the 53,000-strong audience. Once again, the North and South Korean teams walked in under one single flag - a white pennant with a blue motif signifying the Korean peninsula - predicting a possible unification of the two countries.

The assembly of the participants was followed by the hoisting of the OCA flag to the tune of the OCA hymn, as also the pennants of South Korea and Qatar, the next host country. Chung Soon-Taek, the chairman of the Busan Asian Games Organising Committee, in a short opening address, then emphasised the success of the Games in bringing together the entire 3.7 billion population of the world's largest continent in a celebration of peace and reconciliation. "The efforts of the Asian people to create a brighter future not only for themselves but to the world at large, will go on. The friendship and brotherly love created between the people of South and North Korea during these Games makes this parting all the more poignant."

Samih Moudallal, senior vice-president of the OCA, in the absence of the OCA president, Sheik Ahamad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, presented the OCA appreciation award to the Busan City Mayor, Ahn Sang-Young, and then declared the Games closed with a call to the youth of Asia to once again assemble and celebrate the 15th Asian Games at Doha in December 2006. ''With feelings of happiness and pride, we are coming to the end of two exciting weeks of competition, friendship and glory. Yet, these feelings carry with them a touch of sadness of departing and moments of reflection on new friends, new achievements and new insights that will take us to new horizons."

The Indian contingent at the Closing Ceremony.-V. SUDERSHAN

Accepting the OCA award on behalf of the people of Busan and the thousands of volunteers who worked hard to make the Games a success, Ahn Sang-Young described the dedicated service from the volunteers as "precious as jewels." The Asian Games MVP award was then presented by Samih Moudallal to the Japanese swimmer, Kosuke Kitajima, who had smashed the oldest world-record in swimming, the men's 200m breaststroke. The Asian Games flag, first raised at the 1951 inaugural Games in New Delhi, and the OCA flag and torch were handed over to Sheik Tamin Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the president of the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee, by the Busan Mayor signifying the exchange of the baton in keeping with the OCA motto, ''Ever Onward".

The Games flag was then lowered and taken out of the stadium before the sacred flame was extinguished. This marked the end of the protocol part of the ceremony and the stage was once again set for the artistes to take over. The cultural show had the Games mascot, Duria, the friendly seagull, as the main character in a presentation titled, ''Homecoming."

Involving the participation of over 5,000 drummers and dancers, this short presentation focussed on lighting up the road for all the participants of the Games to tread back home safely, just as birds migrate from one region to another with the change of seasons. This over, the crowd was then treated to another dance by a troupe of boys and girls from Qatar welcoming the participants of the 15th Asian Games to Doha.

The theme of the Games, ''One Asia" found its illustration in the final part of the panorama; a cymbal and drum dance programme symbolising the collective aspirations of the people of the continent for peace and unity. And then, a spaceship soaring upwards, amid a superb display of pyrotechnics, released Duria into the sky and colourful banners which said, ''Goodbye, Busan, See You in Doha."

It was time to say a final good-bye to only the second non-capital city to host the Asian Games. And to the citizens of Busan whose resourcefulness and enterprise was what made the Games a roaring success.