While four Indian athletes, Ajay Kumar & Siddhanta in men’s category along with Chitra and Monika in women’s category, mark their qualification for finals of the Asian Athletics Championship 1500m, a revamped Kalinga Stadium, Bhubhaneswar echoed some great news on the first day followed by a glitzy and glamorous opening ceremony.

Amidst the chanting of ‘Men in Blue’ and Federer at Wimbledon, the city of temples Bhubaneshwar rolled down the eyeballs to its glittering opening ceremony, formally inaugurated by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The city was yesterday swarmed by a number of youngsters and school kids.

The glamorous evening displayed Odisha’s cultural heritage, rapid economic development and some exuberant fireworks with the attendance of few star players. International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) President Lord Sebastian Coe, Asian body chief Dahlan Al-Hamad and Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla along with former champions Anju Boby George, PT Usha and many other legendary athletes added grace to the occasion.

This last-minute opportunity, due to the refusal by Jharkhand state to host the championships because of financial constraints, was successfully managed by the Odisha government and they pulled off a spectacular stadium and tracking field in just under 3 months’ time.

While the green side of the stadium saw supporters from Pakistan applauding for their 6-member Pakistan contingent, on the other hand, the Indians qualifying for the finals on day one, drew a huge cheer from the crowd with a thunderous applause.  

More than 800 athletes from 45 countries would be competing in 42 events in the championships. With the World Championship in Athletics scheduled for next month in London, some of the big names in athletics like Zhang Wenxiu, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Ruth Jebet have given the Asian Championships a miss this year.

In a major incentive for participating in the games, the gold medal winners will get automatically qualify for the next month’s World Championships. The 5-day event will conclude on July 9.