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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 12:21, December 02, 2006
Asian Games off to spectacular start in Doha
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Doha opened the 15th Asian Games in a spectacular opening ceremony which showed Asia's rich cultures and delivered a message of peace on Friday.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, declared the Arab region's first Asian Games open during a 150-minute, multi-million dollar extravaganza.

Athletes and officials, escorted by women in traditional long robes and headscarfs, streamed into the Khalifa stadium, with Afghanistan first appearing, followed by countries and regions in English alphabetical order.

China, which sent the largest delegation with 647 athletes, marched in under the flag hoisted by badminton star Bao Chunlai.

DPR Korea and South Korea joined hands under a blue and white unification flag showing the Korean Peninsula, which is the eighth time that two sides have paraded together in an international sports meet.

The parades were rounded off by Qatar, which won a standing ovation from a packed crowd of 40,000.

The ceremony started with hundreds of men in white thobes and white gutrahs forming the phrase "Peace Be Upon You" with sparkling fireworks in hands.

The spectators and a television audience of 3 billion were treated with a colorful and high-tech performance, which featured an ancient Qatari who searched for treasures and discovered other parts of Asia with the help of an astrolabe. He returned with riches and handed down not only the astrolabe, but also his respect for knowledge and their own culture.

The arch-shaped huge LED screen interacted with the performance while changing lights helped transform the field of play into ocean, desert or a world map.

For the first time since the inaugural Games in 1951, the Asiad has been held in an Arab country. The organizers have spent 2.8 billion U.S. dollars on the largest ever Asian Games, which drew more than 10,000 athletes and officials from 45 countries and regions.

Even before the official opening of the Games, doubts had been dispersed on whether a country of 11,000 square kilometers and with a population of 840,000 could make the Games a success.

Qatar has shown the world that size doesn't matter.

Not only did the organizers comfortably house an Olympic number of participants but also impressed the visitors with the 21 state- of-art venues, redeveloped or purpose-built, for the 39 sports, 424 events, 11 more sports than the Olympic Games.

The organizing committee looks like a melting pot of cultures as Qatar invited games experts from at least 15 countries and regions, including Australia, Greece and Italy which had hosted recent summer or winter Olympics.

Among the 3,465 organizing staff, about 85 percent came from outside the country, including Australian David Atkins, who directed the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics.

Atkins had promised an Olympic-class opening for Doha - and he delivered.

"This ceremony is far more ambitious and greater in scale and scope than the Sydney ceremony," he said.

"This is the most multi-cultural team I have ever assembled. There are performers from more countries than are in the games."

Source: Xinhua

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