After a fortnight-long intense sporting action, the curtain was rung down on the 34th National Games at the Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium at Mega Sports Complex here on Saturday with a sprightly and colourful closing ceremony.

The five-hour programme, watched by a capacity crowd at Hotwar, brought to an end to one of the biggest and well-attended Games in which competitions were held in 33 disciplines in three cities of Jharkhand.

It was indeed a moment of great delight and immeasurable pride for the people of Jharkhand and the State Government that the Games, postponed six times, finally concluded in a manner appreciated by all.

The Games, riddled with mismanagement and hiccups at the start mainly owing to lack of experience of the local administration and officials, settled down to smooth conduct through the later part of the fortnight.

Services takes honours

At the end of it all, Services emerged as the best sporting unit with a whopping haul of 70 gold, 50 silver and 42 bronze medals for a total of 162, a tally that surpassed its previous best of 59-46-37 achieved at the last Games in 2007.

The ceremony began with a glider making sorties over the Stadium at 4.45 p.m. This was followed by the performance of the Army band. After the dignitaries arrived, nine sky divers from Indian Air Force led by Wing Commander Vasant Raj dropped down from the sky and landed inside the stadium to the lusty cheers from the crowd. The athletes, led by medal table topper Services followed by Manipur, trooped in to the accompaniment of the military band.

This ushered in the formal part of the ceremony with speeches by the guests. Richa Mishra of Delhi and Virdhawal Khade of Maharashtra, the two who were adjudged as the best female and male athletes of the Games, were awarded IOA Trophies.

Services was given the Raja Bhalendra Trophy which was received by Air Marshal J.N. Verma on behalf of the Services Sports Control Board. Manipur was adjudged as the best State and was given a trophy as well.

Over to Kerala

After the Indian Olympic Association president, Suresh Kalmadi declared the Games closed, the OCA flag was ceremoniously lowered and handed over to the president of the Kerala Olympic Association president, M.M. Abdul Rahman, and Kerala Sports Council president, T.P. Dasan. Kerala will be the host of the 35th edition in seven cities spread across the State in December next year.

In a most poignant moment, the sacred flame was put out marking the end of the Games and the festivities associated with them. To lift up the sagging spirit, the cultural programme took the centrestage with a tribal musical ensemble and an audio-visual presentation.

The folk artists from Manipur along with Punjab's Bhangra performers took over to captivate the audience. A special show ‘Bidaai' (farewell), a song and dance tribute to commemorate the victory after hurdles and challenges was performed to thank Mother Nature.

Over 170 dancers and performers from Kerala showcased the State's rich cultural heritage by performing Kalaripayattu, Kathakali, Mohiniattam and finally captivated the audience with the Shingarimelam and Kerala horns.

Famous singer Shaan and actress Katrina Kaif came on the stage to regale the audience and the ceremony concluded with laser show and fireworks.