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You are here: CWG 2010 New Delhi Games Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony exceeds expectations, eclipses all Pre-Games drama

Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony exceeds expectations, eclipses all Pre-Games drama

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cwg_opening.jpgThe 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games may not have had the most auspicious run-up with allegations of corruption, and health & security concerns casting a major cloud on not just India's ability to deliver an event of this magnitude, but whether the Games would even take-off at all. However, at the end of an extravagant 5-hour long Opening Ceremony, even his harshest of critics would have to tip their hats to Suresh Kalmadi on a fantastic job done. While the true test of the pudding may well be decided come 14th October at the Closing Ceremony, the Opening Ceremony has certainly done the nation proud.

First things first, for a nation continuously ridiculed for the meaning of Indian Standard Time (IST) as being regularly late, the best news of all was that it kicked off on the dot. The Indian national anthem reverberated to a near packed house at the 60,000 seater Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which was refurbished considerably after playing host to the Asian Games 28 years ago!

The much-maligned helium balloon, the Aerostat which is reported to have put the Indian tax payers back Rs. 40 crore made a grand appearance and looked every rupee well spent. A modern marvel termed pre-Games as "a piece of technology and a piece of art", the Aerostat was raised 30 metres above ground level and provided a full screening of all the events taking place below it. Amidst the song and dance was a 7-year old tabla player Keshav, who mesmerized the crowd with his skill.

About 30 minutes into the ceremony, the athletes made their first appearance. They were led on to center stage by Australian flag bearer Sharelle McMahon, a two time former Commonwealth gold medalist in netball. The Aussies led the way as the previous hosts of the Games and were followed by the rest of the 70 countries and territories in alphabetical order. The Pakistan team in particular got a rousing reception, and the hosts India were the last of the teams to head out of the tunnel under the stage. Team England were arguably the best dressed of the lot in their Nehru-style jackets, specially tailored for the occasion.

The athletes were followed by a round of speeches. Organizing Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi did not get the warmest of welcomes, but the mentions of former President Abdul Kalam and Delhi Chief Miniser Shiela Dikshit were met with resounding cheers. He was followed on stage by the Commonwealth Games Federation President Michael Fennell, who was kind in his words for the hosts. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prince Charles and President Prathiba Patil followed. The Queen's Baton made its long awaited appearance after visiting all 71 participating nations and was handed over to the Prince of Wales, who read out the Queen's message of peace and good wishes. He then declared the Games open. President Patil in a style very much her own soon announced, "Let the Games begin."

There was some controversy in the run-up to the event whether Indian President or the visiting dignitary should officially open the Games, in the end though it looked like they both did!

There was an hour long cultural program that followed, the highlight of which was an etching made in sand of Mahatma Gandhi's historical Dandi March. Sand artists used their fingers to make a portrait of the monumental event in India's history on an animated glass screen, that was telecast onto the aerostat using synchronized video technology.

The ceremony closed with Grammy and Oscar winner AR Rehman pelting out the not so popular Games Anthem followed by the fan favourite "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire. Probably a very fitting ending to depict the reality of a young, growing and vibrant India, filled with the paradox that is a corrupt and slow moving behemoth, filled with culture and traditions, yet aspiring to be a superpower banking on its strengths of technology, diversity and the sheer numbers of a youthful and effervescent work force.