Last night I watched the opening ceremony of the 15th Asian games in Doha, Qatar. I was left speechless; it was nothing short of spectacular. The cultural programs, the fireworks, the torch ceremony… everything was just too cool.

 The credit of this goes to the royal family of the State of Qatar. The Emir and his sons are big sports enthusiasts. The Heir apparent HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani took to the stage with the Olympic Council of Asia President, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and greeted the athletes by saying the gathering here today celebrates young Asians and confirms the future of sports in the region.

 horse run

The OCA president added that “The athletes are the core of the Games, years of practising and hard work will now be put to the test. I call upon athletes to engage in a competitive spirit and be fair to each other.”  It was then left to HH The Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani to officially open the Games, followed by a short burst of fireworks while Spanish tenor José Carreras sang a duet with Magida El Roumi and entranced the audience.

Indian team

But then it was to the ceremonial duty everyone had been waiting for. The lights were dimmed and the 15th Asian Games Torch entered, carried by world champion bowler Salem Bu Sharbak.

He passed on to star footballer Mubarak Mustafa who then exchanged with shooter Nasser Al Attiya. Attiya handed over to legendary middle distance runner Mohamed Suleiman who in turn handed on to former football international Mansour Muftah who finally passed the Flame to former international sprinter Talal Mansour

 The Torch final found its way to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Qatari equestrian captain who rose through the floor of the stadium astride his horse to accept the Flame. After giving a brief salute to the Emir, Al-Thani then turned and urged his mount into a gallop as he gallantly rode up a ramp that reached the full height of the stadium, much to the audience’s amazement.

At the top the Torch lit a gold star, which turned upwards within revolving circles which became the astrolabe of the Seekers quest. The Flame was lit signalling the start of the 15th Asian Games.  Pyrotechnics then took over as the huge Sport Tower ignited at its peak into another glowing flame. Then a final volley of fireworks concluded the evening in spectacular fashion echoing all over Doha.

China were the first big team to enter the arena. They received a warm welcome and there were more cheers too as teams from India, Korea and Indonesia arrived, while the Gulf States were also roundly applauded. The team from Kazakhstan had the most flamboyant headgear, parading in blue fedoras, while the Saudi Arabian team wowed the audience with glittery robes. IR Iran received a loud welcome as they entered the stadium with their Talisman Hossein Reza Zadah, the Iranian Hercules leading the way carrying the flag.

There were emotional welcomes too for the teams from Iraq and Palestine while those from Jordan, Oman and Lebanon also received huge support from the watching audience. However, the loudest cheer of the night was left for the host nation, Qatar. The vast team took five minutes to walk to their positions as they stopped to be greeted by the waving Emir.

Whilst all the athletes were in place, Indian starlet Sunidhi Chauhan sang the song ‘Reach out’ as hundreds of children ran into the arena holding white doves, once again symbolising the peaceful nature of the Games.