Games opens in spectacular fashion

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Special Correspondent

DOHA: It was a fitting climax to a memorable evening as the Qatar Equestrian captain, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, son of the emir of Qatar, galloped on horseback to the top of the stadium, after emerging from underneath the ground, to torch the flame of the 15th Asian Games in the opening ceremony on Friday.

The torch had been carried on the final stretch inside the stadium by world champion bowler Salem Bu Sharbak, footballers Mubarak Mustafa and Mansour Muftah, shooter Nasser Al Attiya, legendary middle distance runner Mohamed Suleiman and the famous sprinter Talal Mansour who handed it over to Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

As the gallop turned into a struggle on the steep, long and slippery ramp when the horse tried to scale the last quarter of the climb, everyone watched with bated breath, but the horse proved its pedigree in style much to everyone's jubilation.

Once lit, the metallic sun rising ahead, it twisted and turned into an astrolabe that symbolises the Arabian heritage of science and technology. It was an appropriate culmination to the story of the seeker's quest for knowledge and being fascinated by the wonders of Asia. It was an unimaginable climax to a wonderful show that was conceived and executed with a touch of class, perhaps lending another chapter to the Arabian Nights.

Declared open

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, declared the Games open, to a resounding display of pyrotechnics that lit up the night sky in colourful geometric patterns.

It rains rarely in these parts, as you can understand from the six centimetres of average rainfall in a year. However, when it does, it rains hard. The congregation from the whole of Asia including the athletes who made an impressive march past, had a first hand experience as the rain tried to play spoilsport.

"We have been here for two years and it has rained twice. It rained four times during the ceremony," said the artistic director of the ceremony, David Atkins.

Thankfully, the rain relented in time, after the children of ASPIRE sports academy had set the right mood by playing with the mascot ORRY, chasing it all over the ground in different games.

"Sports teaches us friendship and harmony. We must all tonight pledge to inculcate this in our lives to live in peace and solidarity," said Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the President of the Olympic Council of Asia, in his speech.

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