The subcontinent's showpiece sporting event, the South Asian Federation Games, was consigned to history on Wednesday evening after ten days of intense competition among eight countries, including newcomers Afghanistan.
As the curtain came down on the ninth edition, with a sparkling closing ceremony, the highlight of which was a cultural show themed on the 4,500 years-old Indus Valley civilization, India emerged the region's superpower, finishing with 101 gold medals.
With the arrival of the chief guest, Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, athletes strolled into the majestic Jinnah stadium hand-in-hand to the music of the orchestra.
After hoisting the Pakistan national flag and recitation of the Holy Quran, the flag of Sri Lanka, who will host the tenth edition of the Games, was hoisted.
A field of sunflowers formed by about 600 artistes, carrying about 400 umbrellas symbolically illustrated a rosy future shared through sports. The performers created eight distinct rows, representing each competing country.
The Islamabad Marching Band of the nine segments of the Pakistan Army played popular international, national and regional tunes.
Popular Pakistani singer Haidiqa Kiani, who enthralled the crowd during the opening ceremony, returned to lift the spirits of the departing athletes. She dedicated a song titled 'Surajmukhi,' a theme of hope, to the 1,800 competitors who graced the thrice-postponed Games.
Organising committee chairman Lt General Syed Arif Hasan declared the Games closed in his capacity as President of the South Asian Sports Federation (SASF).
"This is an emotional evening. I hope these Games help develop friendship and closer neighbourhood," he said.
He thanked the organising committee members and commended the assistance of the Pakistan army.
The Games flag was then lowered and, along with the torch, was handed over to the Sri Lankan delegation, which will host the 10th Games next year, by Islamabad city mayor Junaid Iqbal Chugthai. The next Games will be called 'South Asian Games'.
The cultural show witnessed "soul of sounds," a pulsating beat of ethnic dhol drums with dervish
dances. Ethnic melodies from different parts of Pakistan were rendered by musicians and harmonic vocalists.
Traditional dances of the eight competing nations also enthralled the audience.
The fireworks and display of laser lights lit up the night sky amidst high energy music, eventually brought the colourful ceremony to a close.
For ten days, many a career was made and unmade on the turf, track, pool, ranges and stage. Three years of hard work, just about six months of preparation by the athletes and the perseverance of the organisers culminated in applause from all the dignitaries.