ICC WORLD CUP 2011 Opening Ceremony: Welcome to the School of Life

Weekend Independent
Friday, 25 February 2011

On the 17th of February 2011 Bangladesh awed the whole world with an opening ceremony that outclassed all its predecessors. Held at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, all spruced up to welcome the guests from across the globe, the ceremony was the biggest event held in the country till date. The entire stadium packed with over 25,000 people vibrated as a singular entity, cheering and applauding all the way, welcoming the tenth edition of ICC World Cup with feverish excitement. The event exceeded everyone’s expectation with a spectacular myriad of fireworks, lasers, LED kites and airborne cricket. The 2011 ICC World Cup opening ceremony was of epic proportions to say the least, brilliantly executed and precisely timed – a spectacle the world is unlikely to forget anytime soon.

The show was rich in cultural flavor, spectacle and brilliant showmanship. One rarely sees a crowd of 25,000 people cheering their hearts out for an entirety of two and a half hours, which is precisely what happened in the ICC World Cup 2011 opening ceremony. The Bangladeshi national anthem beautifully sung by a choir of 32 singers from Chayanaut kicked off the program. This was followed by a performance by a group of some the most prominent and popular young performing artists of the country as singers Arnob, Mila, Elita Karim, Balaam, Ibrar Tipu, Kona and others took to stage and warmed up the audience with a welcome song. The event was inaugurated by a speech each from the Finance Minister, State Minister for Youth and Sports, the Chairman of BCB and the ICC president Sharad Prasad. The inaugural speech by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was short and sweet as she welcomed the guests, something that can’t be said about some of the other speeches made that night. An unfortunate hiccup in an otherwise flawless show.

To a Bangladeshi, rickshaws will always remain at the top of the list when it comes to the most popular modes of transportation. And with that in mind, the team captains were greeted with an entrance unlike any other in the history of ICC world cups. All 14 captains were greeted with tremendous applause from the crowd as they entered the arena borne on brilliantly decorated colorful rickshaws lit up brightly with lights trailing the borders of the vehicle, bearing the name of the countries they were representing. It was an innovative way of welcoming the captains and at the same time boasted our culture and heritage. The crowd rejoiced as they saw captains from all over the world riding something that was so unique to Bangladesh. The excitement of the crowd was infectious and the Zimbabwean Captain Elton Chigumbura deserves a special mention for his “rhythmic-dance-wave-while-bobbing-head” response as he rolled in proudly riding the rickshaw bearing the name of his country. A truly festive soul, who was more in tune with the crowd than any other captains present in the ceremony that day and the crowd showed their appreciation by cheering wildly. The biggest cheer however was reserved for the Bangladeshi team captain Shakib Al Hasan, who was greeted with loudest of cheers of all. The ICC World Cup mascot, a blue elephant called “Stumpy” was wheeled onto the venue in a rickshaw van amidst massive cheers and applause. The captains were driven around the stadium once and then took to the stage as one of the biggest singing sensations of the sub-continent, Indian singer Sonu Nigam performed the song “Let’s go for Glory”.

Besides the Rickshaws which stole the show and was unanimously commented on as the best part of the program by the audience, the organizers had a few more spectacles up their sleeve. An entire 25 storey building was transformed into a vertical pitch where the world’s first aerial cricketers dazzled the crowd with their antics. It was a one of a kind gimmick which left the audience in awe and received thunderous cheers. The display was surreal and one had to see it with his own two eyes to believe it. Everyone was sure that this would be a tough act to beat and should have been saved for last, but that’s until they saw the LED kites take flight. The laser light show teamed with a flame thrower display that went of along with music made for the kites. After a dazzling light show, the lights went out leaving the entire stadium in darkness as the remote controlled kites took to the air and flew out to the buildings surrounding the stadium. It was an enchanting sight.

The cultural shows put together by each of the three host nation were magnificent to say the least. Beautifully orchestrated and presented, each segment managed to impart the flavors of the respective nations. India dazzled the audiences with a spectacular dance routine, each segment dedicated to portray the cultures of the different areas of the country, aptly titled “Colors of India”. Bathiya and Santhush with Iraj Weeraratne from Sri Lanka, three of the country’s most imminent singers performed “Lion Nation” to warm up the stage for their cultural segment. If they thought the Indian segment was amazing, no one was prepared for what Sri Lanka had to offer. The dancers called “apsaras” entered the venue borne on a huge ship with the Lion as the masthead as the prima donna immerged onto the stage from underneath in a shell that opened up to present the dancer. The theme was to present to the world the “Pearl of the sea” and they delivered just that. The dancers depicted the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka and everything that makes the country so unique.

Finally, it was Bangladesh’s turn. The stage was armed up by our own musical gems: Sabina Yasmin, Mumtaz and Runa Laila. The audience sang and danced along to every song. If anyone had a doubt that Bangladesh would be unable to match up to the Sri Lankans, they were blown away by what followed. Bangladesh put up the most amazing show. Never before had the culture and history of this land been depicted so well and so marvelously. Combining the tribal dances of the Manipuri and Shaotals, couples with the dance of the Rakhains and lastly joined by classical Kathakali dancers, the cultural heritage of our land had never before been put up infornt of the world so well. This was followed by a depiction of the 1971 Liberation War and the struggle to keep the mother language that gave birth to the nation and is the primary identity of any Bangali. Choreographed by Shamim ara Nipa and Shiblee Mohammad, the cultural segment of Bangladesh truly showed the world what we have to offer.

The main attraction of the event was saved for last. As Bryan Adams took to stage, people were ecstatic and welcomed him with deafening cheer and applause. The people sang along to every song he sang. Starting off with his most popular song “Summer of 69”, he performed other hits. The closing number, “18 till I die” was one of the biggest crowd pleasers – as everyone sang along, the chorus reverberated from every inch of the stadium. The performance was concluded with yet another mesmerizing display of fireworks.

The 2011 ICC World Cup theme song was presented to the world in the last segment and performed by the Indian trio Shankar Ehsaan & Loy. “De Ghuma Ke”, a song written using the languages of the three hosting countries: Hindi, Bangla Sinhalese. As the singers took to stage and presented the theme song, fireworks went off in all directions. The stadium was engulfed in a thick cloud of brilliant colors as the fireworks hit the sky and showered the people in dazzling lights. A truly spectacular end to a great show put together by one of the underdog nations in the subcontinent.

When asked about their thoughts on the show, members of the audience unanimously exclaimed it exceeded all their expectations. 21 year old student, Shaiza Karim was thrilled to have had a chance to come see this live. She exclaimed, “I feel like I am a part of the history that was made today. I feel so proud of my country tonight!” The feeling was shared by every member of the audience present there.

Every prop used in the show was made locally by students and people from the Dhaka University’s Fine Arts Institute. Although conceptualized and presented by international events management company Wizcraft International Pvt Ltd, the program was executed by their local partners in Dhaka, Asiatic Events.

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