Bangladeshis cast aside their usual docile and reserved image on Thursday and proudly displayed their sporting passion ahead of the gala opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup later in the capital.
The $30 million jamboree, jointly organised by the International Cricket Conference (ICC) and Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), will be opened by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Unusually for the often chaotic and jam-packed Dhaka roads, traffic was relatively light with the government declaring Thursday a half-day public holiday so its people could watch the opening ceremony.
It is the first time the country, which is slowly making a mark in world one-day cricket if not the five-day Test version, has helped stage the showpiece event which will last from February 19 to April 2.
The country, whose population of more than 160 million has suffered more than its fair share of natural disasters, is jointly hosting with India and Sri Lanka and thoroughly enjoying its rare moment in the sporting spotlight.
"We will be able to improve our image if we can successfully hold the opening ceremony and host the World Cup matches slated for us," Mostafa Kamal, president of Bangladesh Cricket Board, told reporters.
Bangladesh will stage the tournament's opening match between India and Bangladesh at Shere Bangla National Stadium in the Mirpur area of Dhaka on Saturday.
Six Group B matches and two quarter-final matches will be played until March 25in Dhaka and the main port city of Chittagong.
Schoolswill remain closed on match days in Dhaka and Chittagong, the government has decreed.
Hugereplicas of cricket bats, balls, players and even grounds have been erected at important road intersections in Dhaka which, unlike several Indian cities, is awash with reminders that the Cricket World Cup is here.
The city authorities have renovated the streets, painted the road sides and footpaths and residents have festooned their homes and neighbourhoods with cricket-themeddecorations.
Cricket venues and important thoroughfares have been specially illuminated at night and will continue to be lit up throughout the six-weektournament to add to the carnival atmosphere.
"Dhaka is looking very beautiful, ready and attractive," Basirah Alam, a New Zealand-basedBangladeshi who has returned home on a visit to her parents.
Trafficand "unnecessary" movement of the public has been restricted by the authorities which suited Abdul Mannan, a cab driver of a big Dhaka hotel.
"Drivingis easy and there is no hassle," he said.
Despite the party mood, authorities were taking no chances with security in a notoriously volatile region where memories of the gun attack in Pakistan on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in 2009are still fresh.
Thatresulted in a ban by the ICC on Pakistan hosting international matches which still endures. It was to have shared the honour of hosting this World Cup.
The opening ceremony begins at 1800local time.