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Grand opening to Afro Asian Games

October 24, 2003 20:59 IST

More than five decades after lighting the first Asian Games torch in New Delhi, India gave birth to another sporting extravaganza, when the Afro-Asian Games was inaugurated in Hyderabad on Friday by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

The colourful inaugural ceremony also signalled India's renewed endeavour to host the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

The grand opening of the jinxed Games, which was postponed a number of times for various reasons, showcased the rich cultural and heritage of the hosts and both the continents -- Asia and Africa -- before a 30,000-strong crowd, which included tennis ace Leander Paes and film star Sanjay Dutt.

For the hosts, it was a moment to cherish since it was they who staged the first edition of the Asian Games 51 years back in Delhi.

Though the Afro-Asian Games have more number of countries in the fray -- 93 from Asia and Africa -- it has only eight disciplines and just over 2000 athletes fighting for glory during the next nine days, with powerhouses China and Japan from Asia and Kenya and Nigeria from Africa likely to dominate.

There was no individual march past for the participating countries. They came in batches of two, with African athletes leading with the continent's flag.

The Indians, hoping to make a significant impact after some creditable performances at the global level in recent times, got a rousing ovation as they walked into the stadium at the end of the joint march past by Asian athletes.

Chief guest L K Advani declaration of the opening of the Games was welcomed by a thunderous cheer by the large gathering.

Shooter Anjali Bhagwat took the oath on behalf of the athletes, which was followed by spectacular fireworks, lazer and space cannon shows.

Around 12,000 school and college students came up an exciting presentation depicting the vast, vibrant and distinct culture of the countries of Asia and Africa.

The highlights of the evening were the tribal dance of 'Umojas' (professional tribal dancers from Africa), the spiritual chanting of Chinese monks, and the prayers for peace and unity in the world by thousands of children who had toiled hard for the last 20 days to make the opening ceremony a dazzling affair.

While the Umojas' dance highlighted the spirit of unity and brotherhood, the children displayed their presentations for world peace.

With the theme song of the Afro-Asian Games playing in the background, Sheroo the lion, the official mascot, was escorted to the ground by around a thousand children.

Pop singer Shankar Mahadevan came up with the theme song; Bollywood heartthrobs Urmila Matondkar, Mahima Chaudhury and Simran enthralled the audience with catchy dance numbers highlighting the cultural diversity of the country.

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