Bollywood rocks Melbourne in breathtaking closing ceremony
Melbourne, Mar 26 (UNI) In a ceremony splashed with boisterous celebrations, breathtaking fireworks and splendid Australian music, Melbourne gave an emotional send off to the athletes from 71 countries, who made the 18th Commonwealth Games an overwhelming success at the MCG here tonight.
Ten days of intense competition, bitter rivalry, achievement and disappointment were put behind as the victor and the vanquished joined in the fun to make it a night to remember.
However, it was India that held centre stage as New Delhi invited the world to be there in 2010.
Adding more glitz was the David Dixon award for the most outstanding athlete of the Games, which was presented to shooter Samaresh Jung by Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Michael Fennell.
India got all of 11 minutes to give a glimpse of its rich vibrant culture and heritage after and before it ceremonially received the games flag at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra gave the glamorous touch to a show conducted by India's most famous choreographer Shiamak Davar. A group of 800 artistes were seen in action as India told the world what to expect in 2010.
Eleven minutes is barely enough to convey what India is all about. But the effort was made. A short audio visual capturing the spirit of Incredible India was followed by Isha Sharwani showing, through dance, the science of yoga and then came a dance ballet by Aishwarya Rai.
After that it was over to Delhi. A short film on the historic Indian capital captured the warmth and vibrance of its people who invited everyone to be there in 2010.
Then there was the Delhi Dhamaal, a song specially created by well known lyricist Javed Akhtar, which was sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Gayatri. This was followed by a lively Bhangra by Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee.
Shera, the mascot of the 2010 Games, was brought in accompanied by former Indian sports stars including Sunil Gavaskar, Milkha Singh, P T Usha, Anju Bobby George, Prakash Padukone, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and film actors Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta.
Performing live along with Shera were percussion maestros Taufiq Qureshi and Shivamani. The grand finale was of course the dance number choreographed by Davar and the 2010 theme song written by Gulzar and sung by Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan among others.
That was India's moment of glory at Melbourne and it came at a time when its sportspersons had put up a spendid performance in the sporting arena. For Australia, of course, it was win-win games and the closing ceremony reflected the sweet scent of success. If the opening ceremony was theatrical, the closing was just the way Australians live their life -- one big party. It was an unabashed celebration of Melbourne and Victoria.
For one and a half hours, the 50,000 strong audience joined the party. The country's much-loved Australian rules football stars were there in the arena as also several top Australian singers, ballerinas and not to miss the country's top TV comedian Dave Ednaevarage.
The lineup of Australia's music greats -- Grinspoon, Ben Lee, Sarah Blasko, Paul Kelly, Body Rockers and Casey Donovan -- took centre stage at Festival Melbourne.
There were some poignant moments too. There was silence when flags of 71 nations were brought in. But this time there was no formality. Athletes without any distinction of nationality trooped into the main arena amid thunderous applause from the packed stadium.
Chairman of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation Ronald Walker in his speech praised the athletes and volunteers for making the games a great success. Premier of Victoria Steve Bracks then read the Commonwealth Games flag handover clause and Chairman Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi Suresh Kalmadi responded.
''This duty I willingly undertake to do,'' he said.
''Melbourne has done a brilliant job but we would do even better, '' he promised.
Present at the stage were city Mayor John So, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit and vice Chairman of Delhi Games Organising committee Randhir Singh.
The Games flag was then presented to Mayor So, who handed it to Mr Brackes and he gave it to the Delhi Chief Minister, who in turn, handed it over to Mr Kalmadi who gave it back to Mr Singh and delivered his acceptence speech.
After that the national anthems of Australia and India were played.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were present on the occasion.
The sacred flame that had inspired the sportspersons to greater glory during the Games was doused and the flag was lowered by eight people.
But soon the hush in the stadium was broken with an explosive city-wide pyrotechnics display that lit up the Australian sky.