Pune, Oct 13: The rain god gave a scare but then decided to be kind and stayed away for the rest of the night as Pune accepted the favour with open arms.
The third Commonwealth Youth Games got off to a rousing welcome at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports City, Balewadi, on the western outskirts of city, on Sunday evening.
Barring the vacant spaces in a couple of stands, spectator response was enthusiastic though it appeared it was going to be a flop show until 45 minutes before the curtains went up.
The rain just made a guest appearance towards the early part of the show but the event itself remained mediocre all throughout. Some performances stood out though. Prior to the President Pratibha Patil's arrival, the opening ceremony kicked off with 'warm-up' acts by the Army band who entered the main athletics stadium from the two entrances at the Eastern side of the stadium.
By then half of the seats were taken and the motley crowd lapped up the melodious music as well as the bagpiper tunes. The horses from Mewar were on next and the kids took a liking to the two dancing horses among them. At about 5 pm, dark clouds began to gather overhead approaching from the south-east threatening to spoil the show.
As the attendance improved, Suresh Kalmadi, chief organiser of CYG, walked on to the main stand and waved to the crowd even as daredevil riders on Royal Enfields, called the 'Tornadoes', entered the arena and who then performed some thrilling stunts. The team from Army Services Corp, Bangalore, were not to be deterred by the heavy drizzle hard and continued to perform for fifteen minutes on the slippery turf.
As president Pratibha Patil took the main stand she was accorded the bugle salute as soon as the Tornadoes left the ground. The National Anthem was then rendered by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and his son Rahul on the santoor as attendants held umbrellas to the falling rain in the middle of the ground on centre stage.
Then it was over to some thrilling performance as four helicopters known as the 'Sarang' team took over the sky above and mesmerized the audience with their aerial daredevilry. 'Akashganga', a team of 13 paratroopers, descended from over 10000 ft and landed right on target after airborne for more than five minutes.
Danseuse Hema Malini lent a solemn atmosphere to the event with her dance recital titled 'Ganesh Vandana' with the Lord Ganesh as the backdrop.
A grand fireworks display was preceded by representatives of all countries pouring water from little brass pots got from their countries into a large vessel. This was part of the 'Fountain of Youth' which replaced the usual fire torch. The fountain was triggered after Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra poured the assorted water pot into a giant cauldron on the centre stage.
Sadly, the oath-taking ceremony by badminton star Saina Nehwal lacked seriousness as all the countries were walking towards the periphery rather than staying put for a while at least.
Others to carry the baton into the stadium included sporting icons Sania Mirza, Nandan Bal, Gaurav Natekar, Zafar Iqbal, Jagbir Singh, PT Usha besides Nehwal. The show concluded with a dance performance by Saif Ali Khan and Urmila Matondakar, assisted with vocals by Shankar Mahadevan and Sunidhi Chauhan.