Photos from http://www.dohaasiangames.org
A magnificent spectacle
Friday, 01 December, 2006
In the beginning, the Opening Ceremony of the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 focussed on the future, as Qatari youngsters were introduced into the stadium and spent an energetic and colourful 10 minutes creating a traditional Qatari sadu carpet on the stadium floor with huge pieces of billowing cloth.
They were followed by youngsters from ASPIRE, who raced around the stadium chasing Orry, the Games’ mascot. This emphasis on youth underlined Qatar’s bid to make the country the sports capital of the Middle East.
But this was merely the hors d’oeuvre to the main course.
With the countdown getting close, a sense of excitement filled the stadium before the show really swung into action with a barrage of light and sound as hundreds of men with hand-held flaming torches formed the shape of the Qatari flag in its red and white, before re-forming to spell out the words “Peace be upon you” in English and Arabic.
HH The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani was then introduced to the audience, before the Qatari flag was raised and the national anthem played.
Following a rapturous reception, performers then played out a story which reflects the growth of Asia told by a Qatari, the Seeker, who navigates his way through the world with the help of a mystical astrolabe. He faces and surmounts hazards to a stunning backdrop of video graphics and lasers featuring sea monsters and even a golden falcon. At every turn the effects, the costumes and graphics became ever-more impressive and dramatic.
A stunning display then featured the Far East as a colourful caravan of Chinese dragons, dancers and vehicles entered the stage surrounded by Chinese fire-crackers as the story of the silk robe was told. An illustrated map of the Silk Road appeared on the floor of the stadium, populated by wonderfully costumed players.
The story continues with our hero finding his way to India where he is showered with gifts before setting sail back to Arabia. Here he finds a wife and marries, with the whole of Asia invited to the ceremony through music and dance while the spectators were also invited to participate by flashing lights and releasing huge party-poppers from a special Ceremony pack that was beneath every seat in the stadium.
Then the production moved on to celebrate Arabic culture by bringing on the desert riders of Qatar, who drew a great cheer on their powerful steeds. This was followed by a dynamic display focussing on the golden age of Arabic science, proceeding through time, passing the present day and looking into the future.
Every moment brings a new surprise, a new light show and new costumes for the thousands of performers who fill the arena.
The tale ended with a flourish as Qatar promised Doha would be a city of the future amid a flurry of fireworks that left the spectators spellbound.
Hong Kong, China entertainer Jackie Cheung then sang ‘Together Now’ accompanied by hundreds of drummers as the Games' flag bearers entered the arena.
Next, the athletes entered the stadium to an enthusiastic reception from the thousands of spectators. Teams entered the stadium in different attires, some wearing tracksuits, others in suits, while countries such as Malaysia arrived in their own national dress. Hundreds of drummers beat out a rhythm for every team.
China were the first big team to enter the arena. They received a warm welcome and there were more cheers too as teams from India, Pakistan and Indonesia arrived, while the Gulf States were also roundly applauded.
The team from Kazakhstan had the most flamboyant headgear, parading in blue fedoras, while the Saudi Arabian team wowed the audience with glittery robes. IR Iran received a loud welcome as they entered the stadium with their Talisman Hossein Reza Zadah, the Iranian Hercules leading the way carrying the flag.
There were emotional welcomes too for the teams from Iraq and Palestine while those from Jordan, Oman and Lebanon also received huge support from the watching audience.
However, the loudest cheer of the night was left for the host nation, Qatar. The vast team took five minutes to walk to their positions as they stopped to be greeted by the waving Emir.
Whilst all the athletes were in place, Indian starlet Sunidhi Chauhan sang the song ‘Reach out’ as hundreds of children ran into the arena holding white doves, once again symbolising the peaceful nature of the Games.
The Heir apparent HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took to the stage with the Olympic Council of Asia President, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and greeted the athletes by saying the gathering here today celebrates young Asians and confirms the future of sports in the region.
The OCA president added that “The athletes are the core of the Games, years of practising and hard work will now be put to the test. I call upon athletes to engage in a competitive spirit and be fair to each other.”
It was then left to HH The Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani to officially open the Games, followed by a short burst of fireworks while Spanish tenor José Carreras sang a duet with Magida El Roumi and entranced the audience.
But then it was to the ceremonial duty everyone had been waiting for. The lights were dimmed and the 15th Asian Games Torch entered, carried by world champion bowler Salem Bu Sharbak.
He passed on to star footballer Mubarak Mustafa who then exchanged with shooter Nasser Al Attiya. Attiya handed over to legendary middle distance runner Mohamed Suleiman who in turn handed on to former football international Mansour Muftah who finally passed the Flame to former international sprinter Talal Mansour
The torch final found its way to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Qatari equestrian captain who rose through the floor of the stadium astride his horse to accept the flame.
After giving a brief salute to the Emir, Al-Thani then turned and urged his mount into a gallop as he gallantly rode up a ramp that reached the full height of the stadium, much to the audience’s amazement.
At the top the Torch lit a gold star, which turned upwards within revolving circles which became the astrolabe of the Seekers quest. The flame was lit signalling the start of the 15th Asian Games.
Pyrotechnics then took over as the huge Sport Tower ignited at its peak into another glowing flame. Then a final volley of fireworks concluded the evening in spectacular fashion echoing all over Doha.
After the conclusion of events, Deepa Vish, a Doha resident from India said, “All I can say is that I am speechless. This has been an experience of a lifetime. It was absolutely fabulous and I am proud to be a resident of Doha.”
Echoing her comments was 12 year-old Simon Borghesi, who said: “It’s the best show I’ve seen in my life. My favourite part was when the rider went up the stadium and the fireworks afterwards.”
Meanwhile, another audience member was just as breathless with excitement. Joni Reyes said: “It was marvellous. I didn’t expect anything as beautiful as this. It cannot be better than this.”
So the Opening Ceremony was a spectacular show of culture and dazzling effects.
Was it this greatest show on earth?
If you were there you had to believe it.