Vibrant ceremony marks SA Games opening

Kathmandu, December 1

The 13th South Asian Games began with a lively and colourful opening ceremony here at  Dasharath Stadium.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari declared the Games open during the three-hour-long programme that showcased culture and diversity of Nepal, along with laser show and mass callisthenics from Armed Police Force personnel.

The opening ceremony began with the national anthem followed by the march-past of athletes and officials from seven participating nations. Olympian weightlifter Kamal Bahadur Adhikari carried Nepal’s flag in the march-past led by chef-de-mission Pitamber Timsina.

Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel, Chairman of the main organsing committee and Minister of Youth and Sports Jagat Bahadur Sunar, President of South Asian Olympic Council and Nepal Olympic Committee Jeevan Ram Shrestha and National Sports Council Member Secretary and SAG Executive Committee Chairman Ramesh Kumar Silwal addressed the gathering before President Bhandari inaugurated the SA Games amidst a huge round of applause.

Olympians Baikuntha Manandhar, Rajendra Bhandari, Nayana Shakya, Umesh Maskey and Debu Thapa took the Olympic Torch around the stadium before the four-time South Asian Games gold medal winning taekwondo player Deepak Bista lit the cauldron. The torch was brought to Kathmandu this morning after a tour of all seven provinces.

After hoisting of the South Asia Olympic Council flag, former national cricket team skipper Paras Khadka and international badminton referee took oath on behalf of athletes and judges, respectively.

In a breathtaking show, the names and flags of all participating nations, along with 26 sports disciplines included in the meet, were displayed mid-air using laser lights, while performers show-cased the culture of all seven provinces. Singers Kunti Moktan, Ananda Karki, Satya Raj Acharya, Indira Joshi and Milan Newar sang the SAG theme song -- Dakshin Aakash Ughari Herdai Chhan. Nepali Army, APF and Nepal Police bands created human flag of Nepal and belted out national songs.

APF personnel then showcased the mass callisthenics presenting names and maps of the participating nations. The ceremony ended with a 20-minute musical show led by singer Deepak Bajracharya, along with massive fireworks lighting up the sky over the stadium.

This is the third time Nepal is hosting the regional sporting extravaganza from December 1-10 in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Janakpur. The regional meet started in Nepal under the banner of South Asian Federation Games in 1984 and it returned for the second time in 1999.

More than 5,000 delegates, including 2,715 athletes, will take part in the regional meet that features 26 sports disciplines. Nepal is fielding the highest number of athletes — 596 — in all 26 sports disciplines.