South Asian Games end with a colourful closing ceremony

South Asian Games end with a colourful closing ceremony
 Northeast India's diverse and colourful culture were in full display as the curtains were brought down on the 12th South Asian Games amid magnificent fireworks that lit the night sky over the capital city today.

Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal declared the Games closed at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium here to mark the formal end to the 12-day biggest multi-sporting spectacle of the eight SAARC countries, jointly co-hosted by Guwahati and Shillong.

"I declare the 12th South Asian Games closed," Sonowal said in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Meghalaya Sports Minister Zenith M Sangma and Indian Olympic Association top bosses to bring a sombre end to the Games competed among more than 2500 athletes from eight countries.

The Games flame at the cauldron was extinguished as the Guwahati night sky was lit with fireworks. The flag of the South Asian Olympic Council was lowered and handed over to the officials of next host country -- Nepal.

Sonowal handed the flag to the President of the South Asian Olympic Council N Ramachandran, who in turn handed it to 13th SAG Organising Committee Chairman and Nepal Olympic Committee chief Jeevan Ram Shreshtha in the presence of Nepal Sports Minister Satyanarayan Mandal.

India, hosting the Games for the third time after Calcutta (1987) and Madras (1995), overwhelmingly dominated the 12th edition by grabbing an unprecedented 308 medals (188 gold, 90 silver, 30 bronze) and stamped their superiority as an unrivalled region sporting power.

Sri Lanka were a distant second with 25 gold, 63 silver and 98 bronze while Pakistan ended at third with 12 gold, 37 silver and 57 bronze. India, in fact, bagged more than three-fourth of the total 239 gold on offer in 23 disciplines.

The Games, which were inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 5 during a spectacular opening ceremony, had been quite a success on the sporting front though there were organisational issues, including provision of media facilities.

The evening today began with performances by eight live bands from across the North Eastern states before the official closing ceremony started.

Unlike the opening ceremony, the athletes did not come in the alphabetic order of the participating nations, signifying the less formal and more of festive and celebratory nature of the closing ceremony.

They waved to the crowd all along as they took one lap of the stadium before joining the spectators at their allotted stands.

Dressed in light blue tract suits, the Indian contingent led the athletes of the eight countries, followed by next Games hosts Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Pakistan.

Then hundreds of the Games' volunteers, dancing and singing in joyous mood, came after the athletes and baloons were lifted on the air with the rendition of Games song 'Ei Prithbi krirangan (the whole world is a playground)."

If the opening ceremony had themes of technologically advancing India, there were none in the clsong Ceremony which was more of song and music show, an apt refelection of the lifestyle of the people of Northeast India. The whole cultural show was of about Northeast India.

First, it was legendary Shillong-based rock musician-singer Lou Majaw who enthralled the near capacity crowd with his popular numbers.

He even ripped off his shirt in his characteristic fashion and jumped down the ceterstage to be nearer to the crowd who enjoyed every bit of his performance.

Well known Assam playback singer and music director Mayukh Hazarika's band Brahmaputra Balladeers brought the spectators to an emotional mood with his rendition of the Games song 'Ei prthibi krirangan' (The world is a playground) penned by legendary Assamese singer and music composer Bhupen Hazarika.

To add local flavour to the event, there was a melange of cultural performances by Angelos Luit Choir, Dr Sangita Kakati, Priyanka Bharali and dancers from Assam.

The     crowd was given a special treat with Bollywood singer Shaan belting out some of his most popular hits, including 'Hona hai tujh mein fana', 'Koi kahe, kehta rahe kitna bhi humko deewana'.

With the crowd asking for more, he continued with 'Chaar kadam bas chaar kadam', 'das bahane karke', 'Om shanti Om' and 'Let's go party tonight'.

The closing ceremony, which lasted about three hours, ended with Shaan leading the other singers with a rendition of Bhupen Hazarika's 'Ei Prithibi ek Kriringan' as Guwahati bade a memorable good bye to the athletes with spectacullar fireworks.

The musical bands which performed before the official closing ceremony included Still Water (Sikkim), Purple Fusion (Nagaland), Salvator (Manipur), The Soul Rebels (Arunachal Pradesh), Boomarang (Mizoram) and Iron Sky (Tripura).
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