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Qatar delivers dazzling Asiad opening
December 02, 2006 02:19 IST
Tiny Qatar stunned the world with a dazzling opening ceremony at the Asian Games that took people through the 5,000-year history of Asia and opened a window to the rich and robust culture of the Arabic world.
True to its boast, Doha put up a show that was opulent in scale, magnificent in its imagery and perfect in precision, with lilting music and flamboyant costumes.
And if the opening ceremony was any indication, then the 15-day Games could be the best ever.
The event, watched by 50,000 people at the iconic Khalifa stadium, and followed by a television audience of three billion worldwide, was infused with symbolism of hope for the future.
Lasting three hours and 20 minutes and produced and directed by David Atkins, the man responsible for the spectacular Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, it easily lived up to the boast that it would be the most technologically advanced ceremony ever held to herald a sporting extravaganza.
The ceremony began with the arrival of Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Flares were ignited to convey the traditional Arabic welcome 'Al Salam Alaikom' as a massed pyrotechnic display formed the Qatari flag in the sky.
The Qatari flag was raised, followed by the playing of the National anthem, in which the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra joined in.
Guangzhou, China, will host the next Asian Games.
International Olympic Committee president Dr Jacques Rogge was the guest of honour. And organisers of the Games, who have made no secret of their desire to host the 2016 Olympics at Doha, will be hoping that the IOC chief was paying attention to exactly what a small, yet ambitious Gulf nation can achieve.
More than 13,000 athletes from 45 Asian nations are taking part in the Games that are being held for the first time in the Arab world.
And before the competitions begin in right earnest, they were given a visual treat. The cultural part of the ceremony started with life at sea on a sambuq, a traditional lateen-sailed wooden boat. It then moved on to an Asian caravan journey in the Wonders of Asia segment.
In this segment alone, 6,500 costumes representing Asia from India to China to Kazahkstan were used.
And the overlying theme was the quest for the Astrolabe spherically-shaped ancient Arabian navigational instrument, considered to be man's first navigational computing device.
Choreographed by Australian artistic directors David Atkins and Ignatius Jones, it was rich in both heritage and adventure.
But before that journey through Asia began with a pulsating atom exploding out of the void, releasing light in all directions.
A ray of light passes through universes, panning around the globe starting from Japan, Korea, the Philippines over a topographical map showing major cities and landmarks of Asia 100 years ago crossing India and Central Asia until it reached Qatar.
A Golden Falcon flew across the screen reaching Old Doha long before the discovery of Oil.
The journey of the ceremony was led by a boy who becomes a man and finally finds the Astrolabe.
Another spectacular highlight of the ceremony was the Panorama of Asian history in which six of Asia's greatest structures including Taj Mahal in Agra came out of the darkness in the form of bamboo and rice paper screens. Shadow dancers, among them Kathakali artists from India, gave a panorama of the diverse cultures of the world's biggest continent.
Just before the official ceremony, the Indian flavour also came in rich with Bollywood singer Sunidhi Chauhan joining Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung, Lebanese artist Magida El Roumi and Spanish tenor Jose Carreras as performers at the opening ceremony.
The athletes were led into the stadium by Afghanistan and India's flag bearer was the women's hockey team captain Jyoti Kullu. The Indian men wearing cream colour Sherwani and women wearing colourful lehenga presented a smart looking contingent.
There was applause for the two Koreas as they marched together at the opening ceremony, bearing a blue and white flag showing the Korean Peninsula. The grand finale was the aerial pyrotechniques all over the "city of the future".
In the end, everybody here had one, unanimous view: the ceremony was befitting to the motto of the Games � 'The Games of Your life'.