The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Asia unites in touching ceremony

Busan: Global Busan, one Asia. That’s the theme of the 14th Asian Games. The two-and-a-half-hour long opening ceremony at the choc-a-bloc swanky new Main Stadium portrayed just that on a beautiful evening at this picturesque harbour city.

It lasted no more than two and a half hours. It was short compared to some other opening ceremonies we have seen in the last 10 years, but it was sweet.

No frills, no hi-fi gadgetry nor any technological wonders were on display. Rather, a riot of colours and fireworks were interspersed with shows of Korea’s rich cultural and sporting heritage, including a spectacular martial art demonstration.

The function proper revolved round a beautiful love story with an Indian connection. It was in Busan that Kim So-ru, a young king, married a princess from the kingdom of Ayodhya 2000 years ago. This unusual romance was smartly depicted to spread the message of love and brotherhood across the continent.

The colourful marchpast of 44 countries — this is the first time that all member nations of the Olympic Council of Asia have taken part in an Asian Games — threw up some touching scenes. Like the 1000-plus Koreans walking in together last — in blue outfit, hand-in-hand and under one flag of peninsular Korea. Or the war-ravaged Afganistan contingent, with three female participants in the front row, acknowledging the deafening applause.

No less poignant was the small group from East Timor, which became an independent state only this May. The Filipinos in their traditional dresses with small umbrellas made a pretty picture and stood out from the rest.

The Indians, led by hockey maestro Dhanraj Pillay in the absence of athlete K.M. Beenamol, looked typically drab in their light blue attire with an orange turban-like headgear for the men. Some things never change, like the Indians’ dress sense for these big occasions.

How could an event in South Korea at this point of time be detached from the great deeds its footballers achieved three months ago' The captain of the fourth-placed team at this year’s World Cup, Hong Myong-bo, carried the flame followed by four of his teammates. They passed it on to two former gold-medallists — one each from South and North — who lighted the flame which was blown to life by another of those huge firework.

President Kim Dae-jung’s arrival at the venue had thrown traffic around the stadium off gear but his only function was to declare the Games open. The speeches were left to be delivered by the Busan Asian Games Organising Committee chief and Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad.

This is not the first time South Korea is hosting an event of this magnitude. Seoul alone hosted the Asian Games and Olympic Games in a span of two years — successfully and spectacularly. But Busan looks to be treading a different path. Going by the opening ceremony, the stress is on simplicity and effectiveness.

Not that it can’t afford a more luxurious style, it’s just that they seek to spread an uncomplicated message in these troubled times. The message of love.

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