An elaborate extravaganza, depicting a blend of Odisha’s rich history and culture and its modern economic development marked the opening ceremony of the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships, which begins here tomorrow.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared the Championships open at the Kalinga Stadium in front of a capacity crowd with international athletics federation president Sebastian Coe and Asian body chief Dahlan Al-Hamad in attendance.
Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla and Union Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas were also present to witness ceremony, which was turned into a spectacular show of light, sound, song and dance.
“I declared the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships open,” Patnaik said in Odiya, before the the flag of Asian Athletics federation of raised.
For a championships, which is not that hugely significant as compared to the likes of a multi-sporting event, the opening ceremony was an extravagant and spectacular one.
The major attractions of the opening ceremony included the rendition of popular Sambalpuri folk song ‘Rangabati’ by music director trio Shankar-Ehshaan-Loy.
Bollywood composer and singer Shankar Mahadevan and ‘Thousand Hands’ dance troupe from Thailand also enthralled the audience during the opening ceremony.
The central arena of the Kalinga Stadium turned into a big stage with four slanting screens which showed, along with three other such screens round the stadium, showed everything from world famous sand artist Sudarshan’s works to Konark temple to ancient king Kahravela to other famous monuments.
Perhaps the best performance of the evening was three astronauts performing skywalk below three giant balloons in the midst of an array of laser lights.
Earlier, athletes of 44 participating countries took part in the march past at the beginning of the ceremony.
Expectedly, the large Indian contingent, which came last, received the most applause from the crowd which filled the 10,000 capacity Kalinga Stadium.
All the eight members of the Pakistan contingent — six athletes and two officials, who were given visa at the last minute took part in the march past and they received a fair amount of cheers from the crowd.
India’s top half miler Tintu Luka carried the flag of the Indian contingent. Odisha sprinter Srabani Nanda took the oath of ‘fair play’ on behalf of all the participating athletes.
More than 800 athletes from 44 countries are taking part in the four-day continental showpiece event, which made it the biggest ever championships. This is the third time India is hosting the championships after New Delhi (1989) and Pune (2013).