Colourful start to regional fiesta

PM Modi urges participants to celebrate togetherness; Bhutia lights the flame

Colourful start to regional fiesta

Assam kicked off an immensely challenging 12-day period on a promising note, putting up a simple yet commendable ceremony to signal the start of the 12th South Asian Games here on Friday.

Deciding to stage its biggest ever sporting event at an extremely short 90-day notice, Assam and co-hosts Meghalaya faced a race against time but the former managed to pull off an impressive opening act at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.

“The key objective of this Games is to celebrate togetherness among South Asian nations,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi before proclaiming the Games open. “No matter which country you belong to, we all take pride in calling ourselves South Asians. South Asia is our home. I’ve always stressed that sports is an essential part of a human’s life. The one who plays, shines.

“My vision for South Asia is the same as the same as that for India. During this Games we will develop friendship and memories that will last a lifetime. I want all of you to take back such great memories.”

The highlight of the opening ceremony, watched by a near packed house, was each of the eight competing nations carrying water from the respective countries in an urn during the traditional march past, the organisers bringing forth the spirit of peace, progress and prosperity — the motto of this SAG. All the eight rivers have their origins in the great Himalayas, flowing into the Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea before converging in the Indian Ocean and the organisers felt there is no better way to show the common ‘veins’ that run through all.

Sourav Ghosal led the Indian contingent with the women wearing turquoise blue sarees and the men dressed in grey trousers, white shirts and blue blazers. India chose to carry water from Brahmaputra, into which waters from the other seven nations was emptied into, fostering the sense on unity.

Ace shooter Gagan Narang, who won a bronze medal at the London Olympics and is one of the star attractions here, carried the torch made out of bamboo — the significant shoots of the North East region. Narang then passed it to former table tennis player Monalisa Barua Mehta before it went to the hands of India’s women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal, Krishna Poonia and Anju Bobby George.

Footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, one of the most famous athletes from the North East region, then was bestowed with the honour of lighting the flame that blended the old with the modern India. Unlike the past when the main torch is lit using a flame, Bhutia placed the torch on a floor and digital lights signifying fire circled around the footballer before the cauldron burst into life.

Mayukh Hazarika sang the Games’ theme song “Ei Prithibhi Ek Krirangan”, composed by the great late Dr Bhupen Hazarika. The song that translates into “The world is a playground” drew huge applause from the gathering. Cultural programmes — directed by Bansi Kauland — that showcased North East as  well as diverse India entertained the audience who lapped up each performance.

Following the cultural and folk dances, modern India  was showcased with lots of colourful lights adding glitz to a cold evening. Simple fireworks then lit up the dark sky, signalling the start of the 12-day sporting festivity.

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