Shillong: The Shillong leg of the 12th South Asian Games opened with a spectacular ceremony here on Saturday.
Athletes from eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations paraded before the spectators in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Shillong, which is co-hosting the multi-national games with Guwahati, is hosting the eight disciples – women’s football, badminton, wushu, judo, archery, table tennis, boxing and taekwondo.
“The South Asian Games will bring harmony, friendship, cooperation and unity to all South Asian nations. It is true that sports builds unity and oneness,” said Indian Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Noting people from the eight northeastern states are friendly and known for their hospitality, Sonowal, a tribal himself from Assam, said: “I hope your experience will be a memorable one.”
During the two-hour show, the bio-engineering know-how of the state was showcased as well as the root bridges of Khasi Hills, Mawlynnong which is “the cleanest village of Asia,” the monsoon season of Cheerapunjee, and flora and fauna.
The Shillong Chamber Choir, and Meiyang Chang of Indian Idol fame belted out several Bollywood numbers, while young singer Venetia Warshong also enthralled the audience.
The opening ceremony also showcased traditional dance of indigenous people of the northeastern states. The glittering event culminated with fireworks and lanterns lighting up the sky.
Welcoming the athletes to Shillong, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said: “We are proud to share that northeast India has come a long way to be able to host an event of this magnitude. We will definitely look forward to hosting many more international events in the years to come.
“It’s a rare opportunity to see the flags of eight different nations being waved here. We (northeasterners) should now take the opportunity to look beyond sporting events and get together for peace and prosperity,” he added.
Afghanistan has 94 athletes, Bangladesh 137, Bhutan 55, Maldives 38, Nepal 128, Pakistan, 85, Sri Lanka 153 and India 141 participating in their individual disciplines.