Commonwealth Games 2010 Ceremony

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A dazzling, colorful, high-octane opening ceremony that was part Bollywood, part cultural extravaganza, did much to dispel the nightmares of the past fortnight, thrilling a sell-out crowd in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as well as the athletes and officials from 71 Commonwealth nations.

It even managed to start on time, to the very second, proving there are some deadlines that Games organisers are capable of meeting.

“India is ready,” proclaimed the hapless chairman of the Games organizing committee, Suresh Kalmadi, adding: “There have been many challenges but we have been able to rise above them all.”

The hostile reaction from spectators, prompting a quizzical look from the Prince of Wales, showed exactly what they thought of such crowing.

After revelations of “filthy” living conditions in the athletes’ village, incomplete venues and malfunctioning technology — all on Kalmadi’s watch – what should have been a showcase of India’s emerging economic power has turned into a PR catastrophe. And judging by Sunday, Indians know exactly who is to blame.

But the booing of Kalmadi proved a solitary discordant note on a spectacular night of dance, music and pyrotechnics, rounded off by a performance of the Slumdog Millionaire song ‘Jai Ho’ by Oscar-winning singer-composer A.R Rahman, the so-called “Mozart of Madras”.

It was a truly lavish production that set a new benchmark for Commonwealth Games opening ceremonies just as Beijing took the Olympic curtain-raiser to new heights two years ago.

There is not a great deal that Sebastian Coe and his Olympic organising team can learn from Delhi’s preparations so far, other than how not to do it, but they would do well to match Sunday’s show for sheer exuberance and excitement when it comes to London’s big night in two years’ time.

Predictably, the biggest cheer came when the Indian team brought up the rear of the athletes’ parade, though there was also a warm reception for the English team suitably attired in Indian long shirts, or kurta. It was a nice gesture to the Indian hosts, but one that was also borne out of financial necessity. With no main sponsor to pay for expensive parade wear, the costumes were sourced locally in New Delhi by England chef de mission Craig Hunter at a knockdown price.

Minutes before the start of the ceremony, the stadium announcer read out a list of rules for spectators, including the stern warning: “Do not use unparliamentary language.” But the crowd was too high-spirited to engage in profanities, despite having to endure hour-long queues in 35C temperatures for bags to be searched and bodies to be patted down. A staggering 100,000 security personnel were on duty outside the stadium. So much for the Friendly Games.

Amid all the singing, drum-beating and gyrating by the thousands of performers, the Prince of Wales briefly held centre stage to declare: “I have much pleasure in declaring the XIXth Commonwealth Games open.” It was a sentence many feared they would not hear just a few weeks ago when several countries threatened to walk out over the “uninhabitable” accommodation. But they didn’t, and the Games have begun.

Content Source – HT

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