Melbourne : The new “Incredible India” of diversity and cultural pride showed its face, the Australian media unanimously said after watching Sunday’s gala opening of the 19th Commonwealth Games that they described as a “kaleidoscope of music, movement and colour” that gave a “spectacular start” to the fortnight long sporting event.
“An ancient land opens its heart to the world,” the Sydney Morning Herald said and described the beginning of the event as a display of “rich and exciting pageant befitting a country as vast and populous as India”.
A 300 metre-long series of tableau shashayed the “riot of life that exists within and around an Indian train”.
Rickshaws and chai (tea) carts rollicked along with classical dancers as the mega sporting event of the 71 participating nations and territories was officially opened Sunday evening by Indian President Pratibha Patil and Britain’s Prince Charles who read out the message of Queen Elizabeth II, his mother.
According to the Herald, like a great curry, the Delhi Games has had a spicy start. Now the city hopes for the diffusion of the full range of flavours for the next 11 days before leaving the athletes, and television audiences around the world, with an after-taste that is richly exotic rather than sour.
After weeks dominated by reports of corruption and chaos, the new “Incredible India” of diversity and cultural pride showed its face,” wrote another daily, The Australian.
And if the crowd of over 50,000 at “Delhi’s impressive new Jawarhalal Nehru Stadium were any indication”, whether “it would erase the national shame of the past few weeks, the answer is an emphatic, and ecstatic, yes”, the newspaper said.
The ceremony began with a dramatic flourish as percussionists beat giant drums and red pyrotechnic flames shot into the air from the brand-new Australian constructed stadium roof. Children dressed in the tri-colour Indian flag waved more than 6,000 athletes in to the arena — the largest ever Commonwealth Games contingent.
The former host nation, Australia, led the athletes’ parade with netballer Sharelle McMahon carrying the flag ahead of a team. But no one could upstage the sumptuous elegance of the Indian team in stunning brocade saris and maroon and gold knee-length silk sherwani jackets, it wrote.
“Commonwealth Games make spectacular start,” read the headline in the Herald Sun.
“The ceremony, a kaleidoscope of music, movement and colour, was watched by proud and ecstatic locals, plus millions of television viewers across the Commonwealth,” it said.
A ‘Namaste’ dance — the Hindi word means “welcome” — where dancers formed the shape of two palms pressed together in a common Indian greeting, was also a crowd favourite. And, there were fireworks, with more than 2,700 provided by Victorian company Howard and Sons launched from 88 spots around the stadium roof.
The newspaper also hailed the Games’ theme song by Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahmann as “a foot-tapping, hand-clapping, jaw-dropping performance”.