Grand opening to Games
The 19th Commonwealth Games were declared open on Sunday with a spectacular opening ceremony that could repair some of the damage to India's image after the calamitous build-up to the sporting festival, says our correspondent Harish Kotian.
The 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games kicked-off with a spectacular opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Delhi, on Sunday.
The stadium was packed to capacity as India showcased its cultural diversity and variety in launching the biggest ever Commonwealth Games.
President Pratibha Patil and Prince Charles jointly declared the Games open. The mega event, scheduled to run from October 3-14, will see nearly 7000 athletes from 71 nations take part.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also made his excitement clear. "Welcome to India. The people of India are delighted to host the Commonwealth Games 2010. This is a proud moment for all our countrymen," Singh said.
Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi, who was booed by the fans at the stadium, said the Games proved India's determination to succeed at any cost.
"India is ready to host the Commonwealth Games. I expect the Games to contribute significantly to the Indian economy," he said.
Image: Opening ceremony of the 19th Commonwealth Games
Opening ceremony was in true Indian tradition
Singer Shibani Kashyap kicked-off the programme by singing a few of her hit Bollywood tracks, which was followed by dance performances from school children from various Delhi schools.
As dignitaries, like President Patil and Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived at the stadium, the Indian National anthem was played, with the Indian tri-colour being projected on the giant screen.
The opening ceremony commenced with Nagada drummers beating out the countdown to the opening in true Indian tradition, as the giant aerostat rose dramatically to its full height above the stadium.
The audience also witnessed conch blowers on East and West of the main stage, blowing conch shells to mark the beginning the opening ceremony; they were then joined by the Dung Chen players, while the Rajasthani Puppets also danced in perfect synchro.
The Dung Chen belongs to the clan of trumpets that are among the oldest musical instruments dating back to at least 1500 BC.
When the aerostat reached its full height, the fireworks took from the roof of the stadium.
The action then moved on to the stage for the Rythms of India programme, involving drummers from every part of the country. A group of Pung Cholom drummers started the programme to a loud cheer from the fans.
Pung Cholom is an unique classical dance from Manipur, performed by dancers playing the Pung (a form of hand beaten drum) while they dance at the same time.
After this, a group of 120 Chenda (a cylindrical percussion instrument) drummers started their performance creating a loud and rigid noise inside the stadium followed by the various other drummers like Bihu, Gudum Baja, Bhangra and Dholu Kunitha.
Image: Opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games
Chants of 'India, India' reverberated around Nehru stadium
The interesting part of the act was the sole performance by seven-year-old tabla player Keshav. This was followed by the Swagatam act performed by children from various schools around Delhi.
The Swagatam song took off with blocks of children coming together to form the Namaste, a traditional Indian greeting. Simultaneously, the words of welcome from 18 different languages recognized by the Indian constitution were projected on the aerostat.
The Swagatam song was rendered by the famous India singer Hariharan echoed around the stadium.
Then the fans witnessed the Athletes Parade as all the nations, led by a group of drummers, marched into the stadium. Australia, hosts of the last Commonwealth Games started off the march, while hosts India were last in the marching order with Beijing Olympics gold medalist Abhinav Bindra as their flag bearer.
The packed stadium gave them a standing ovation as chants of 'India, India' reverberated around, while drums played in the background.
India, as expected, got the longest cheer from the crowd and a standing ovation. But surprisingly, neighbours Pakistan also got a huge roar from the crowd when their athletes entered the arena.
India boasted of the largest squad with 619 athletes, while St Helena made up the smallest squad with just five athletes.
Image: Abhinav Bindra walks with the Indian contingent at Nehru Stadium
Bindra took the Games oath
Following this, the Queen's Baton completed its journey at the stadium after setting off from the Buckingham Palace in England on October 29 last year, having covered 170,000 kilometres across the 71 participating nations and territories.
Vijender Singh started the final lap of the Baton relay and handed it over to MC Mary Kom, who then gave it to Samresh Jung. The ace shooter handed over the baton to Sushil Kumar, who gave it to Prince Charles.
Prince Charles also seemed thrilled with the gala opening ceremony.
"My wife and me are pleased to join you guys here in Delhi. It was a splendid opening ceremony. It was fitting that the Commonwealth Games were held in India," he said, before reading out the Queen's message.
The flags of the 71 countries were brought in to perform a pathway on the Field of Play and then the CGF flag was hoisted by the Indian military officers.
Beijing Olympics gold medallist Bindra took the Games oath, holding the Indian tri-colour.
This was followed by the Tree of Knowledge segment, which showcased the Guru-Shishya Parampara, explaining the learning relationship between the master and the pupil.
Then the hosts gave a demonstration of the world famous Yoga exercise. Yoga, which originated in ancient India, is regarded as the pinnacle of physical perfection and athletic prowess.
This was followed by the Great Indian Journey, which showed a train arriving at the centre of the stage. It broke up into a number of installations depicting the bazaars of India and the cultural diversity and multi-ethnicity that have existed in the countries over centuries.
Image: Abhinav Bindra taking the Games Oath
Fireworks sparkled the evening
The opening ceremony once again sparkled as a range of fireworks went off while thousands of folk dancers perform to culminate the cultural shows.
Oscar and Grammy award-winning compose AR Rahman took over the stage for the final act of the evening. He performed the theme song of the Delhi Games Oh Yaaron followed by his other hit Jai Ho.
Competition in various disciplines at the Games begin on Monday, with swimming events starting at 0800 IST, while the first gold medal will be awarded from the weightlifting event at 1400 IST.
Image: Fireworks at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at Nehru Stadium