It was a brilliant blend of colour and splendour as the Commonwealth Games opened in a vibrant atmosphere of Indian cultural presentation at the Nehru Stadium on Sunday.
World champion Sushil Kumar presented the Queen's baton that had traversed 190,000 kilometres, to Prince Charles who declared the Games Open. He read out the message of Queen Elizabeth.
The former President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, drew repeated rounds of applause whenever he was shown on the giant screen, seated next to the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi.
Delhi Chief Minster Sheila Dikshit drew an equally warm reception. The President Pratibha Singh Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prince Charles, along with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogue enjoyed the cultural bonanza.
The Prime Minister welcomed the athletes from around the world and wanted them to enjoy the Indian hospitality and the Games.
He underlined the spirit of Commonwealth, to promote “peace, equality and friendship.”
Kalmadi said that India was ready to realise its dream of hosting the Games.
He particularly thanked former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for the support in the bid for the Games.
The programme came alive with a crisp film show of Delhi, and it was a proud moment for the host during the National anthem, for pulling it off against all odds.
The count-down that followed the heavy beats culminated with the fireworks signalling the start of the programme. The aerostat and the huge helium balloon started to rise and it was a great spectacle.
It may have cost a packet, but the aerostat served as a huge television screen for the audience to comfortably enjoy the show, though it could not understandably match high definition TV.
The giant puppets on strings may not be much to boast of, as the human beings fly all around these days in the arena in such shows, but it fitted the Indian cultural show to the dot.
The ‘Rhythms of India' that followed, with 800 drummers from Manipur, Kerala, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Orissa, Maharashtra and Assam, merging the folk drums, rose to a crescendo, and drew applause. It was indeed, Incredible India.
The creation of a folded hand ‘the Namaste sign', with bangles in place, choreographed by 1050 school children was a delightful creation for Hariharan's, Swagatham song. And it finished with the quick painting of mehendi on the white cloth.
It was time for the athletes from 71 countries, to march in, in an hour-long exercise.
It was the first time in such Games at any level that the athletes could settle into their seats, placed inside the arena as well as the stands, to watch the rest of the program.
And the Pakistan contingent was greeted with a thunderous applause.
It was also a little chaotic that the march past switched directions midway, from anti-clock to clockwise.
Australia was the first to march in, and host India, led by Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, was the last to enter the arena to a tumultuous welcome, even as the music changed to match the mood.
The placards for the teams were held by Indian women, wearing 71 types of saris in different styles, from various parts of the country.