Sunday, 15 August 2010

♪♫♩♬ ❀ Oh What a Night ❀ ♪♫♩♬

First of all ... these are not my words ..... this was written for the Straits Times by Rohit Brijnath.

I could not possibly describe last night, so please read the following that appeared in the Straits Times today - Sunday August 15 2010

HISTORY arrived last night under a crescent moon, serenaded by a cool breeze and a drum roll at 20.10. 

Never before has Singapore been visited by such a collection of nations and territories - 204 - at once. And never before have 3,600 teenage athletes had a Games so grand held just in their honour. 

The first Youth Olympic Games was inaugurated by President S R Nathan yesterday, on a night that had the smell of fresh beginnings and where a threatening rain miraculously stayed in the heavens. 

The world watched as a modern city of the present embraced the world's athletic future, all in the name of ancient Olympic ideals. 

Unlike the usual athletic parades at major Games, the competitors sat in the stands like VIPs - a sweet, pragmatic touch. From today, they will be the show; last night, they watched it.
Surrounding the athletes were 27,000 spectators. Outside, thousands inhaled a party atmosphere, and across the planet, millions more got a televised glimpse of a celebration that included fire performers walking across a reflecting pool and 7,000 participants wrapped in 8,500 costumes. 

As Ms Judy Lim, a housewife who has lived in Beijing for the last 10 years, said: 'It may not be as big as Beijing's stadium, but the energy level here is just as great! It's such a privilege to be part of a historic moment.'

Sport is about stories and yesterday, watched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and International Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge, Singapore told many. Of the city it was and has become. 

On the stage, containers stood guard like a tin army, suggesting the nation's reputation as a port city. Behind them, a modern skyline glittered as dancers whirled. 

Opening ceremonies come draped with symbolism and this was no exception. Athletes, for instance, are befriended by doubt and, at one point, a 12m-tall monster - representing the sportsperson's fears - appeared to overcome a young athlete. 

But assisted by his friends, the young hero felled it with a slingshot. Athletes in the stands will have enjoyed that for they are all aspiring Davids out to challenge fictional demons and real competitors. 

But even as history filled the nostrils, there exists a nervous anticipation over the eventual efficacy of the Games.

Singapore has invested strongly in this intriguing idea, even overshooting its initial budget to spend close to $400 million. Yet, as much as this is a branding of a nation, this is also an experiment for the Olympic movement. 

While the senior Olympics retains a powerful pull, this scaled-down offspring is an unknown quantity. Whether young athletes who are still not fully formed champions can entertain spectators remains uncertain. 

But there is no sport without risk. And there is no sporting night without an allusion to dreams, for this is what sustains athletes, from Panamanian basketballers to Senegalese fencers. As singer Seah Wei Wen, speaking for them, crooned: 

'I want it all.

'This is my dream.'

All night, metaphor lurked as bands rocked and fireworks crackled. A carp swimming upstream represented a need to take chances, an opening bud was the blossoming of youth.
A show replete with smiles was then interrupted by images of strife - floods and fires - with flags semaphoring that the world needs help. It was akin to a call to a new generation, and as Robert F. Kennedy once said: 

'This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.' 

Sport can scarcely presume to deliver world peace, but as the interlocking rings of the Olympics last night suggested, a sharing of ideas and ideals among disparate young people is a beginning. 

Perhaps as Pakistanis from a flood-torn nation meet Australians, and Haitians from a nation rebuilding after an earthquake share tea with Chinese friends, some barriers, however minor, will fall. 

The ceremony was neat, efficient, fun; the finale laced finely with emotion and drama. The torch was ferried across the bay in a boat dressed up as an illuminated phoenix. It passed through young hands, till sailor Darren Choy, Singapore's medal hope, skipped across the reflecting pool and lit a cauldron shaped like a lighthouse. 

The message was inescapable, for this city wishes to be a beacon - attracting athletes from abroad, attracting the world in general, and attracting its own young to sport. 

Today, this journey of young discovery continues. At East Coast Park in the morning, a bevy of young girls will battle in the triathlon and a sweaty winner will finally emerge. She, of all athletes, will never be forgotten - the first gold medallist of a first Youth Olympic Games. Her story will truly be history. 

 will upload my images in a day or so ....

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