India on Sunday put behind a nightmarish build-up of scandals, filth and dirt and missed deadlines to come up with a dazzling and vibrant opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games–the country’s biggest sporting spectacle–watched live by a global audience of around three billion. Against
the backdrop of an early October sun set, the spanking new Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium turned into a golden hue as the Rs 44 crore aerostat lifted into the skies and a bevy of puppets danced and over 800 drummers heralded the event.
A spectacular laser fireworks show lit up the evening sky and India took a giant leap, 28 years after it hosted the Asian Games.
In a neat diplomatic compromise, Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth, the head of the Commonwealth, and President Pratibha Patil did the honours at the inaugural ceremony, amid thunderous cheers from the capacity 60,000 crowd.
“I have much pleasure in declaring the 19th Commonwealth Games open”, the Prince said reading out a message from the British monarch.
This was followed by the address of President Patil, who concluded by saying ” the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi are now open. Let the Games begin”, signalling the formal commencement of the sporting extravaganza.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his cabinet colleagues, former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Maldives President Mohammed Nashid, Prince of Monaco Albert II, Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell, Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi and a host of dignitaries were present at the ceremony.
It was a mix of both cheers and jeers for Kalmadi when he made his speech while references to Dikshit were received by loud cheers in the audience.
After brief speeches by Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell and Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, the Queen’s Baton, which traversed through all the 71 Commonwealth nations made a grand entry with Bindra being given the honour.
Badminton star Saina Nehwal, Beijing Olympic Games bronze medallist boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar were the others who carried the baton.
It was followed by the arrival of the Games flags of all the participating countries and the oath-taking ceremony by the Indian captain Bindra.
There was also a section dedicated to the great tradition of learning which unfolded under the Knowledge Tree – a sacred space of Learning – presenting the Indian Classical dance and music that have been passed on through the Guru shishya Parampara.