| The Indian contingent acknowledges cheers at the opening ceremony of the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad on Friday. (PTI)
Hyderabad: More than five decades after it gave birth to the first Asian Games in New Delhi, India spawned another sports gala on Friday, when Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani inaugurated the Afro-Asian Games.
The grand opening of the jinxed Games —postponed a number of times for various reasons — at the G.M.C. Balayogi Stadium, showcased the rich cultural heritage of the hosts and both the continents, Asia and Africa. Almost 30,000 people, including tennis star Leander Paes, thronged the venue.
Though the Afro-Asian Games will have 93 countries from Asia and Africa in the fray, it will have only eight disciplines with just over 2000 athletes fighting for glory in the next nine days. Powerhouses China and Japan from Asia and Kenya and Nigeria from Africa are likely to dominate.
There was no individual march past for the countries who came in batches of two with African athletes leading with their continent’s flag.
The Indians, hoping to make an impact after some creditable performances at the world level in recent times, got a rousing ovation as they walked in at the end of the joint march past by the Asian athletes.
Shooter Anjali Bhagwat took the oath on behalf of the athletes. This was followed by some spectacular fireworks and laser shows. Around 12,000 school and college students came up with some exciting presentations.
The highlight of the evening were the Umoja dancers from Africa, the chants of Chinese monks, and above all the prayers for peace and unity in the world by thousands of children.
With the Games’ theme song in the background, official mascot Sheroo, the lion, was escorted in to thunderous applause.
Pop singer Shankar Mahadevan sang the theme song while Bollywood heartthrobs Urmila Matondkar, Mahima Chaudhury and Simran enthralled the audience with catchy dance numbers. (PTI)
Football — Thursday: Uzbekistan 1 (Marat Bikmoev 48) Iran 0.
Friday: India 2 (J.S. Bisht 50, I.M. Vijayan 62) Malaysia 0.
Hockey (Men’s) — Thursday: India 5 (Prabhjot Singh-2, Gagan Ajit Singh-2, Deepak Thakur) Egypt 1 (Mohammed Gamal).
Hockey (Women’s) — Friday: South Africa 3 (Pietie Coetzee 20, 25, 42) India 1 (Suman Bala 47pen); South Korea 6 Nigeria 0; China 2 (Yai Yu, Chen Xiaoling) Kenya 1 (Lilian Nzisa Kimeu); Kazakstan 3 (Tatyana Marchenko 13, Gulnara Imangaliyeva 44, Natalya Podshivalova 70) Ghana 1 (Ramatu Abbas 58).