Sunday, Nov 02, 2003
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By S.R. Suryanarayan
The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, waves to the spectators as the Andhra Pradesh Governor, S.S. Barnala (left), the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu (second from right) and the Indian Olympic Association president, Suresh Kalmadi, look on during the closing ceremony of the first Afro-Asian Games at the G.M.C. Balayogi Stadium in Hyderabad on Saturday. Photo: Vino John.
As the President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam declared the Games closed, the flame in the giant bowl opposite to the VIP stand dimmed and diminished. Instantly the night sky lit up in the brightness of the pyrotechnics display. Streaks of lights shot upwards from all sides of the huge stadium, the seemingly never-ending fireworks leaving the arena engulfed in a haze of smoke.
That was the start of the cultural segment of another extravaganza received with huge sense of relief by the near-capacity audience after the `ceremonial segment' was unexpectedly stretched, thanks to the speeches, to put the schedule instantly behind schedule.
There was promise though of perfection initially when the `dare devil' acts by the services personnel on motorcyles started bang on time. The spectacular fly past as the day's dignitaries took their seats was the next high point. Then came what ought to have been the essential part of the whole programme, the show of camaraderie among the sportspersons of the two continents and the touching feeling of parting. Solemness was the need but the surprise was the poor number of sportspersons who trooped in.
The speeches took over. IOA President, Suresh Kalmadi first, IOA and OCA secretary-general Randhir Singh, The President of the Associated National Olympic Committee of Africa, Alfa Ibrahim Diallo followed and then by Vikram Verma, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. Mementoes presentation was next and the highlight in this phase was the conferring of the Olympic Order on Moolchand Chauhan, Secretary General, Table Tennis Federation of India by Randhir Singh.
Nature's light had by now faded and even as hi-tech innovations andlaser light play took over, came a thousand army recruits running in from various directions. Burning torch in hand and flowing in like cascades, they came to set the tone of the evenings programme with the `mashal dance' to signify the spirit of solidarity, as beauty queen Yuktha Mukhi, the anchor explained.
Noted singer Hariharan was joined by costumed children to give mascot Sheroo an emotional farewell. The tempo had truly begun. The Umoja dance of Africa brought the roll of drums and vibrant movements to enthrall all. Breathtaking acrobatics by the state circus of China typified the spirit of Asia. The lilting voices of Diana Hadad and Hisham Abbas leading singers of Africa triggered another riot of colours to delight the audience.
India was portrayed through a variety of folk dances. There were more notes of carnival atmosphere as another noted singer Remo Fernandes took the stage. Unmistakable in the end was the feeling of an element of repetitiveness with the opening ceremony. But nobody is complaining.
`Let the spirit of the Games sink in through the myriad colours, vibrant music, fanfare and the sense of involvement of the thousands who made up the evening's spectacle,' seemed to be the refrain. The Games has ended to resurface again four years from now in Africa.
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