Sunday, Oct 26, 2003
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By S.R. Suryanarayan
IOA president Suresh Kalmadi, President of the Afro-Asian Games Council Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Andhra Pradesh Governor Surjit Singh Barnala, Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababau Naidu wave to teams passing by after Games were declared open on Friday. Photo: K. R. Deepak
Hyderabad, a city steeped in history, culture and lately technological development, rose to celebrate the occasion in grand style and opulence with an eye-filling opening ceremony. It was a fusion of the past and the present, tradition and modernity and the spirits of the two continents as the razzle-dazzle filled up the packed Balayogi stadium in Gachibowli on the city outskirts to unfold an enchanting spectacle, both in splendour and grandeur.
The `festival of lights', the highlight of the season, was truly portrayed as the night skies lit up not once but twice, first to mark the lighting of the Games flame and then as a crescendo to the near four-hour programme.
The vibrancy in the presentation by the different troupes including hordes of children came through in a riot of colours. If it was beauty queen Priyanka Chopra who anchored the pageantry phase those who also lent glamour to the occasion were cine stars Mahima Choudhary, Urmila Matgaonkar and Simran. Singers Sonu Nigam and Shankar Mahadevan crooned to toe-tapping musical beats while noted playback singer S.P. Balasubramaniam and Chitra set the ball rolling with the mellifluous `swagatham' song performed in the company of 200 children and 300 kuchipudi dancers.
Amidst the splash of colour came the depictions from Indian history through the portrayals of the King Ashoka's Kalinga war, his laying of arms, the life of Mahatma Gandhi and his Dandi March.
A recorded speech of Nelson Mandela came on the giant screen in keeping with the occasion. Preceding all this was lighting of the Flame by illustrious weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, bronze medallist at the Sydney Olympics through an eye-catching hi-tech procedure.
She and hockey Olympian Mukesh kumar had taken the torch in the final stretch after two African athletes, Nigerian James and South African Christine and India's ace shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore had taken turns with it on the track. As Malleswari lit the miniature bowl, all eyes shifted to the far side as a `chakra', activated by remote, rose up a receptacle to light up the main flame atop the huge tower, triggering fireworks around.
The arena was instantly awash with colour, lights and streaks of laser beams Ace shooter Anjali Bhagwat (nee Vedpathak) then was given the honour of taking the oath on behalf of all the sportspersons present.
Earlier the ceremonial march in of the teams, bunched together as two continents with placards in front to indicate that around 100 countries were represented, the official protocol took over even as the air force helicopters flew past showering rose petals.
Mr Advani, in his speech felt heartened that the Games was being held at a time when the Government had announced resumption of sporting links with Pakistan. "I felt happy seeing the Pakistani sports persons in the march past," he said. Those who graced the occasion were Sheikh Al Fahad Ahmed Al Sabha, President Olympic Council of Asia, Alfa Ibrahim Diallo, President, Association National Olympic Committee of Africa, Vikram Verma, Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister, tennis ace Leander Paes, former Indian cricket Captain Mohd Azharuddin among others.
Mr Suresh Kalmadi, President, IOA welcomed the dignitaries, Mr Randhir Singh, Secretary-General, IOA and OCA spoke on the occasion and Mr Chandra Babu Naidu, AP Chief Minister gave an insight of his vision ahead, his ambition to host the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Olympics thereafter amidst thunderous cheers.
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