As laser lights danced in the sky and the best of Bollywood and
Indi-pop music brought the crowds to their feet, bringing the 19th
Commonwealth Games to a colourful and electrifying close here
Thursday, India marked a triumphant moment, putting to rest a
thousand doubts and pulling off one of the biggest sporting galas
in the world with aplomb.
Fireworks in the night sky lent a magical halo to the over
two-hour-long closing ceremony at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium,
crowned by a giant helium aerostat, as close to 60,000 spectators
roared and cheered and even foreign athletes and delegates were
It was a photo finish to the Oct 3-14 event that saw India
showcasing its organisational might, putting behind controversies,
delays, glitches and negative media. As many of the 6,700 athletes
and delegates from 71 participating teams said, they had witnessed
a different country from what they had imagined.
"Delhi you have delivered a truly exceptional Games and a
wonderful experience for us all, thank you Delhi," said Mike
Fennel, chief of the CWG Federation, who remained sceptical of the
Games' success till just before the opening.
Even those who lambasted the organisers for an unclean Games
Village, delays and lack of security had to admit by the end that
it was one of the best Games ever.
The closing ceremony was perhaps the crowning glory. It was a
night of martial arts, Sufi rhythms, Bollywood and Indi-pop music,
powered by glitzy lights and booming music - as also nearly 7,000
artists. While tens of millions across India and around the world
watched the ceremony on television, the crowded stadium had
international and Indian dignitaries in thrall.
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the guest of honour,
flanked by Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh. Sitting in the VIP box was Prince Edward, younger
brother of Prince Charles. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was
there as was Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
The spectacle began with over 500 martial artists from the far
corners of India. Carrying swords, sticks and other traditional
weapons, they leapt into the air or moved with agility on the
ground, performing "Agni", the glory of sports. There was a burst
of patriotic fervour as military bands worked up a crescendo.
Bagpipers and drummers, clad in black, white and orange stirred up
The moment soon softened 2,010 schoolchildren, clad in white, came
to perform "Vande Mataram", the national song. With the Ashok
chakra at the centre, they spun around, and what soon materialised
was the orange, white and green of the Indian flag - on the ground
and their faces!
Taking over from them were the many volunteers who had toiled to
make the Games a success. Waving and smiling, the volunteers in
red and white track suits had their moment of glory.
The loudest cheer though was reserved for the real heroes - the
athletes and officials of the Games, especially the Indian
contingent. There were smiles, waving of hands and flags from the
players, many of whom put up banners thanking India for pulling
off a spectacular Games. And then in came Shera the tiger, the
highly popular mascot of the Games!
It was a totally incident-free Games with a tight security cover
at the venues and the Village and in other parts of the city.
CWG organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi, however, could not
seem to shake off his negative public image.
The CWG flag was then handed over to Robert Winter, lord provost
of Glasgow, Scotland, which will host the 20th edition of the
Games in 2014. Winter had a word of thanks for the Indian capital:
"Thanks Delhi for being such generous hosts."
And the Scottish city sure gave a glimpse of what lay in future. A
lone Scottish bagpiper walked in playing a haunting tune, and was
soon hemmed in by smiling performers wearing checked Scottish
But the best was yet to come - a laser show crisscrossing the
length and breadth of the stadium. Green lights flew like birds
and then became spirals across the sky followed by electric
orange. On the ground, 1,000 dancers wearing lighted costumes kept
"It was an awesome laser show, simply superb," said Meghna Das who
watched it at home.
But could any show in India be complete without its best export -
Bollywood? From Kailash Kher and Zila Khan to Usha Uthup to Ila
Arun to Sunidhi Chauhan and Shankar Mahadevan, they were all
there. Folk rhythms stirred as did Sufi tunes.
Oscar winning composer A.R. Rahman's anthem for the Games, "Jiyo,
Utho Badho, Jeeto" filled the air. The crowds went berserk,
knowing fully well that is exactly what India and Indians had
It was after all a Games where India put up its best showing ever,
with some golden clinchers on the very last day Thursday. While
Australia took home 177 medals, including 74 gold, India bagged
101, including 38 gold, and England 143 medals, including 37 gold.
The CWG athletes fought in 17 disciplines staged at 11 venues. The
participating teams hailed from Africa, the Americas, Asia, the
Caribbean, Europe and Oceania.
More than sporting glory, it was about India's organisational
might. Its 15,000 volunteers earned plaudits while the food at the
Games Village where players stayed left a lasting taste.
There was criticism about the huge money spent - with estimates
varying from Rs.300 billion to Rs.600 billion. But in the end, the
mega event left behind spanking new infrastructure for Delhi and
memories of a lifetime for many.
"I loved everything - the warmth, the hospitality, the food - and
most of all the sporting infrastructure. I would say these Games
were one of the best," said a Kenyan player.
Living up to President Pratibha Patil's hope on the opening day,
it was human endeavour at its best!