DOHA, Qatar _ The Asian Games officially opened with a spectacle of
pyrotechnics, animatronics and boundless enthusiasm Friday as the people of Doha
welcomed their region's biggest ever sporting event.
Some 50,000 spectators packed the revamped Khalifa Stadium for the opening
ceremonies, which started in steady rain.
Fireworks explode over the Khalifa Stadium
during the opening ceremony of the 15th Asian Games in Doha December 1,
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge was among them, as
was Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, head of Qatar's royal family. Other guests
included Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Palestinian Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The torch relay concluded in style. Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani,
son of the emir and captain of the Qatar equestrian endurance team, emerged on
horseback from a platform that rose from the center of the field to carry the
Asian Games torch the final leg of its journey.
In a dramatic finale Al Thani rode the steed up stairs for the full height of
the stadium to light a giant gyroscope-like cauldron as fireworks blazed in the
For the majority of the 10,500 athletes from 45 nations and territories
attending these games, the opening ceremony signaled the end of years of
preparation and expectation. For the people of Qatar it represented an
opportunity to put their small, but wealthy, desert nation in the world's
The details of the opening ceremonies, put together by David Atkins, creative
director of the Sydney Games opener in 2000, were kept secret leading up to
"This ceremony, in all seriousness, is far more ambitious and greater in
scale and scope than the Sydney ceremony," Atkins said this week.
The resulting spectacular appeared to live up to
expectations, with the combination of live performance and hi-tech props prompting regular roars and applause in
the sold out stadium, which will host the games athletics competition.
Each spectator was given a package of items that enabled them to interact
with the performance.
At a cue from the ground announcer, the stadium was transformed into a sea of
illuminated orbs, flashing glow sticks, whirling fans or Qatari national flags.
Meanwhile, large sections of the stadium were dominated by black and white,
as many of the men wore the traditional white, Arabic ankle-length shirt, or
thobe, while great numbers of the women wore the black abaya and scarf.
The performance inside the stadium was aided by a giant viewing screen
spanning the top of the eastern stand, projecting backdrops and other visual
Hong Kong popstar Jacky Cheung, Indian Bollywood star
Sunidhi Chauhan, Lebanese artist Magida El Roumi and Spanish tenor Jose Carreras
were among the performers.