India finally breathed a huge sigh of relief, putting behind the scandals and the awful build-up to the Commonwealth Games as the 19th edition got underway with a dazzling opening ceremony marked by song and dance.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi was packed for the opening ceremony
A giant helium balloon, called an aerostat, was dramatically lifted to its full height amid the sounds of drums. The moving lights on the balloon continued to change their hues, projecting life-sized revolving images of the action on the ground.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were introduced to the 60,000-strong Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium along with Indian President Prathiba Patil who declared the Games open.
The preparations for the Delhi Games were marred by corruption scandals, delays in getting the venues and the Games Village ready on time, poor construction, unsatisfactory sanitation and other such issues.
Britain's Prince Charles, left, and his brother Prince Edward, right, at the Games
People in the packed stadium voiced their frustration by booing the organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi repeatedly, while cheering popular leaders such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former President Adul Kalam.
Nothing but praise for the opening
Puppets danced in the air to the beat of thousands of drummers, fireworks lit the cool night sky and Oscar winner A.R. Rahman enthralled the crowds with the Games theme song “Jeeyo Utho Badho Jeeto” before moving on to his Oscar-winning chant "Jai Ho".
Everyone who sat through the light, sound and music show depicting 5,000 years of Indian history and culture had nothing but praise.
“Everything from Gandhi to the modern die-hard, it was wonderful,” a tourist called Linda Joshua enthused. “You had classical music, classical dance, the sitar, and the costumes were amazing. You should be very proud of yourselves, India should be very proud of what it was created.”
Morgan Doyle was also happy: “You couldn’t help but like the opening ceremony - all the senses, the colors, the cultural diversity. It went perfectly.”
An aerostat projected images of the action on the ground as it soared
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, an Indian shooter who won the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, was also there for the festivities. “I think it was fantastic. It was one the best ceremonies I have seen. Lot of fanfare, lot of color, lot of our Indian culture and the people loved it absolutely.”
Hope that sporting events will help forget preparations
In his brief address, Prime Minister Singh said millions were waiting eagerly to watch the Games unfold. He said that the games were an occasion to uphold and renew the essential spirit of the Commonwealth that seeks to promote peace, equality and friendship among all people and nations.
The 71 teams attending the Games comprise 19 from Africa, six from the Americas, eight from Asia, 15 from the Caribbean, 10 from Europe and 13 from Asia-Pacific.
With the excitement of a spectacular Opening Ceremony out of the way, the athletes have now got down to business in right earnest.
The organizers have to rely on the sport to obscure the controversy that dogged the run-up to the Games.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas