South Asian Games Kick Off

By Hishan Welmilla in Dhaka

Sugath Thilakaratne, a former 400m competitor, holds the 11th South Asian Games (SAG) torch at the top of Adam’s Peak in Nallathanni on January 22, 2010. The torch was then taken from the base of the mountain to Colombo by car to be handed over to the Bangladesh Olympic Committee. The SAG games will be held from January 29 to February 8 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The11th South Asian Games, known as the Olympics of South Asia, started on January 29, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally inaugurated the prestigious 12-day sports meet of the region  at a  gala ceremony.

Some 1800 athletes and 700 officials are expected to take part in the 23 disciplines of sports for the 158 gold medals at stake at 20 venues across the country.

Sporting disciplines are: Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Cycling, Football, Golf, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Kabaddi, Karate, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Cricket, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Volley-ball, Weight lifting, Wrestling and Wushu.

Preparations for the meet were completed on Friday with final touches given in the 20 venues including five new ones — Kabaddi Stadium, Handball Stadium, Boxing Stadium, Wooden Floor Gymnasium and Gulshan Shooting Complex — to hold the games in a befitting manner.

Bangladesh is hosting the South Asian Games for the third time after successfully staging the second SAF Games in 1985 and the 6th SAF Games in 1993.

Around 11,800 school students, 1300 Ansars, 1000 army men took part in the various colourful displays at the opening ceremony that  began at 4 p.m.  on  Friday.

The three and half hour opening ceremony featured rich tradition, heritage and culture of Bangladesh as well as the latest innovation of exhibit art — the aquatic show. The aquatic show took the opening ceremony to new heights as it is a new concept in the sub-continent. State-owned Bangladesh Television (BTV)  telecast live the opening ceremony from the BNS.
Chinese and French choreographers groomed the local school students, defense personnel and the artists to present a splendid show. SAF and Commonwealth Games gold winning shooter Asif Hossain Khan  carried the Bangladesh national flag in the opening ceremony.

Custodian and skipper of national football team Aminul Haq and famed athlete Nazmun Nahar Beauty  took oath on behalf of the participating athletes.

Bangladesh for the first time introduced the torch relay race in the 11th SA Games following the style of the Olympics. The torch of the 11th SA Games was ceremonially ignited on (Thursday) at the Meghna-ghat Power Stadium, some 35 kilometers from zero point of the capital.

National sports award winning swimmer, Wing Commander  Rafiqul Islam carried the torch, which was lit by Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith and then handed over to another award winning veteran sportsman Bashir Ahmed who carried it to the games venue.

BFF and SAFF President Kazi Salahuddin  carried  the torch inside the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Friday before lighting the torch tower at the top of the stadium after change of hands by 11 other celebrated local sportsmen.

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