BHUBANESWAR: The 22nd edition of the Asian Athletics Championships got off to a glittering start at the Kalinga Stadium here on Wednesday amid scintillating display of Odisha’s rich culture, heritage, folklore and pyrotechnics.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared the event open as the stadium packed to house with more than 10,000 spectators, who had turned up to see the culmination of 90 days’ hardship that the State administration had endured to make the event happen, reverberated with thunderous applause.
Highlighting the challenges fulfilled by the State in such a short time, Naveen hoped it would make the State a sporting capital of the country.
“We prepared a world-class event in just 90 days. We always had the resolve and shown our strength and capacity to the world by making it possible in very short period. I am certain that this event marks the golden era of sports in Odisha,” Patnaik said.
Sebastian Coe, the chief of International Association of Athletics Federations, lauded Odisha for hosting the event in quick time and said it was one of the best Asian Championships that he had ever seen. “This is one of the best in terms of facilities,” he said.
Asian Athletics Association president Dahlan Al-Hamad rated Kalinga Stadium as one of the best in the world and added that the State has set a new benchmark by successfully completing the infrastructural works in a short time.
After the inaugural session, the official mascot ‘Olly’ led the march past beginning with Afghanistan and ending with the hosts India. The excitement and joy of the spectators reached a crescendo when Indian delegation led by quartermiler Tintu Luka entered the stadium. Bhubaneswar held up its sporting culture intact as the Pakistan team was also given due applause. Local favourite Srabani Nanda administrated the oath.
After the event was officially declared open, the stadium resonated with the iconic “Rangabati” number presented by singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan. He invited the original team of singers Jitendriya Haripal and Krishna Patel along with the composer and lyricist and sought their blessings for his rendition. Mahadevan followed up with his hits including “Breathless” and “Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe”.
The cultural programmes that followed were mesmerising as it started with “Journey of Odisha” which took the spectators through the time from the Kalinga War, spread of Buddhism and the subsequent modernity told through various dance forms. The rich history and cultural legacy of the State, including its ancient temple architecture under dynastic rules were displayed through dance and art forms. Choreographed by acclaimed Odissi danseuse Aruna Mohanty and Ratikant Mohapatra, two different presentations left the audience thrilled.
Prince Dance Group presented “Surya Upasana” while artist groups from foreign countries also presented an “Ten Thousand Hands of Budha”. Short films on Odisha’s journey of growth and development were also showcased.
Sports and Youth Services Minister Chandra Sarthi Behera, Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, Union Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas and Development Commissioner R Balakrishnan were also present.