Monday, December 18, 2006

A Celebration of Arab Culture


Watching the closing ceremony of the 15th Asian Games was an astounding experience. The stunning and spectacular display of light and sound from Doha’s Khalifa Stadium was a feast to our eyes and a delight to our heart. And, those who have missed it..…well….they have missed it.

In these largest-ever Asian Games - since its inception in 1951 in New Delhi - there were 8050 athletes from 45 countries in 39 different sports, contesting to win 428 gold medals from a total of 1393 medals. And, an amazing $ 2.8 billion was lavished on this entire sporting event.

After an exemplary organizing of these games in the Arab world, the Closing Ceremony, I felt, was itself a celebration of the Arab culture, and an invoking of the oneness of nations.

There was everything to make the Arab world proud. Glorious and graceful enactments from the much-loved literary works from Arabia – Stories from 1001 Arabian Nights and from the Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor. A riot of colours, a kaleidoscope of costumes and the magic of music have all together kept the spectators spellbound.

The handsome Ali Baba with his 40 thieves , the winsome Aladdin with his Magic lamp, the beautiful Scheherazade on a Crescent moon, the valiant Sinbad on make-shift ships, a Qatari boy on the Magic Carpet - it all seemed like one big joyful indulgence in a very well-deserved extravaganza.

Meticulous planning and methodical precision was clearly evident throughout the show. From the beginning, with the magical melody of the oud, to the culmination into a magnificent pageantry of fireworks, the ceremony seemed flawless; and we cannot but applaud the organizers for orchestrating this event to such a superlative degree.

It is extremely rare that a sporting event like Asian Games is held in the Persian gulf. And, unfortunately, its also extremely rare that such an inclement weather, as we see now, disturbs this region. Therefore, spectators had not showed up at many sporting venues of the games, in the numbers expected, fearing rain. And rain was really a spoil-sport here. But still, the spirits were up, and sports are now done, for these 15th Asian Games.

More than just the glitz and glamour, its the oneness and brotherhood that one gets to see in the Closing Ceremonies of Games that makes it more remarkable.

When all the athletes finally come together into the stadium - young and old, black and white, tall and short; When we see them laugh and smile whether victorious or not, and whether your country’s or not; When we see people of different cultures and creeds, of different religions and races together - it’s a special thrill. Its a special hope that people can live in peace, that we can make still this world a better place.

These 15 days of rivalry and competition is so much better in testing human skill and strength, than months and months of war and strife. These Games are so much better in testing human endeavour and enterprise than battles that rage to only ravage lives of innocents.

It is, therefore, in games like these that countries can come together. It is in these that nations can work together. It is in this triumph of Oneness and Unity that we must revel.

A stirring ballad written as a tribute to the athletes of the Doha Games was wonderfully performed by Lea Salonga, the star from Philippines. It was very aptly titled “Triumph of the One” !

And this oneness – let us hope - will be visible, in word and deed, everywhere as the youth of Asia now prepare and look ahead to the not-so-distant Opening Ceremony of the 16th Asian Games, at Ghuangzhou, China in 2010.

Photographs can be seen here


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