Technical wizardry at its best
The skies lit up with dazzling fireworks as an emotional China brought the curtains down on the biggest Asian Games in a riot of colour, foot-tapping music and a cultural extravaganza at the Haixinsha Island on the Pearl River in Guangzhou on Sunday.
If the opening ceremony held at the same riverside venue on November 12th was high on technical wizardry, the closing was a heart-touching display of warmth by the people of this South China city whose infrastructure has improved tremendously as a result of hosting the Games which saw India record their best-ever medal haul till date.
India finished sixth on the medal rostrum with a record 14 gold, 17 silver and 33 bronze for an overall tally of 64, eclipsing their earlier record of 57 medals in the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi.
The closing ceremony was also used by the Games hosts to present cultural segments representing the different regions of the continent, including South Asia in which Indian singers Ravi Tripathi and Tanya Gupta enthralled the capacity crowd.
Hosts China were unstoppable in their relentless march to titles and at the end of the Games had an incredible harvest of 199 gold in an overall haul of over 400 medals, proving once again that they are in the top-most echelons of world sports.
Korea finished way behind in second place while Japan were third. This medal standing underlined the fact that the Asian Games, the second largest sports event after the Olympic Games, are still being overwhelmingly dominated by the far eastern nations of the continent.
The prelude to the official part of the ceremony was punctuated by dance of Qiling (a legendary animal symbolizing good luck) to celebrate the success of the Games that was followed by an exhibition of acrobatics and dance.
Performers staged "Dragon drunk on the Pearl River", "Painting of Toy figuring in Emotion" and "Wind of the Yao Ethnic Group" dances while flashbacks of the Asian Games actions were shown on sail-shaped screens before the Chinese President Hu Jintao and Olympic Council of Asia Chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah entered the arena to the strains of the Chinese Military Band.
Image: Performers participate at the Asian Games closing ceremony on Sunday
'Magical' children standout in cultural segment
The five-starred red flag of China was unfurled and the hosts' national anthem was played by the Military band.
A small cultural segment was then presented with fishing lights shaped as starlight and the crescent moon used as major props to create a dream-like atmosphere of changing colours and flowing figures, the images giving the crowd an impression of fairy tales and scenes of fishing.
The face of a smiling child appeared which turned into a beautiful girl from this city of ten million who frolics in the night sky amidst the stars.
When she extended her hand all the stars and moon fell into her grasp and she, with a laugh, threw the stars and moon to the Games Torch Tower in the centre of the square.
As they fell to the ground, hundreds of children appeared like magic and scattered in all directions to form the Asian Games emblem.
A ship resembling a crescent moon with singing children on board gently set sail on the front waterway and hundreds of chorus singers with stars in their hands in four groups entered from two sides.
A child singer picked up a Lingnan-style fishing lantern made of bamboo splits ecclosed by paper from the water.
Almost immediately several fishing lights in different colours appeared on the scene winding in groups or strings through the site as the children with star lights in their hands flashed those lights to give an impression of a sea of lights.
This was followed by the representation of India and the Ganga with the holy river appearing on the sail-shaped screen and running towards the famous temples of India while the screen also showed images of the Taj Mahal and modern architecture.
Several dancers led by Cai Yushan and Xi Chuhang performed to the singing of Tripathi and Gupta and there were also motorcycle stunts done in front of the Games Torch Tower.
Image: Performers do a traditional Japanese dance
Bollywood makes its presence felt
One hundred men performers with Indian flower wreaths in their hands danced in two groups behind the bikes and formed two crescent moons on both sides of the Torch Tower while over
1000 chorus members holding multi-coloured Indian light-reflecting towels danced in harmony.
When the two Indian singers came to the front, male dancers ran along the two sides of the Torch Tower to form a triangular pattern and danced with gusto while around 200 women dancers ran out, divided themselves in two groups and performed various Indian dance forms.
The men and women dancers came together to form a semi circle they danced together to the song in typical Bollywood style.
The other regions of the continent were also given their prominence in the cultural milieu before flashbacks of the Asian Games competitions and athletes being awarded their medals were shown along with emotional scenes, symbolizing the excitement and harmony that was visible during the Games.
Image: Dancers perform Indian dance at the closing ceremony on Sunday