Ranchi: An agonizing wait of four years and six postponements later, the 34th National Games finally got off with a colourful opening ceremony at the Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium here on Saturday.
Organizational chaos and mismanagement took some sheen off the opening ceremony but singer Sukhwinder Singh and Bollywood artists Vivek Oberoi and Ameesha Patel's riveting performances ensured that the spectators were enthralled at the three-hour programme.
A spectacular laser show towards the end of the opening ceremony brought the spectators on to their feet in the Mega Sports Complex in the outskirts of the city.
The timing of the February 12-26 National Games clashing with the much-awaited Cricket World Cup in the sub-continent proved to be a dampener as the premier multi-discipline competition of the country failed to generate a keen media interest nationwide.
As announced earlier, star son of Ranchi, Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not take part in the opening ceremony due to Team India commitments, though performances by Bollywood and local artists, laser shows and spectacular fireworks at the end filled in the void.
Amid vociferous chants of Jai Jharkhand, the state's chief minister Arjun Munda made a sincere appeal to forget about the torrid build-up to the National Games which was in jeopardy having missed deadlines after deadlines.
"Chhodo Kal ki batein, kal ki baat purani. Naye daur mein likhenge milkar nayi kahaani Hum hindustani, hum hindustani," Munda sang the popular song in his speech that saw loud cheers from the crowd.
Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi was at his usual hyperbole, saying, "10,000 athletes and officials are taking part here. This is world's best infrastructure. This is going to be the biggest National Games ever. I'm very happy that you have got all the good facilities."
The three-hour opening ceremony began with aerobatics ahead of the formal programme as chief guest Governor of Jharkhand M O H Farook, Kalmadi, Munda and Jharkhand Olympic Association President arrived at the near-packed venue that has a 35,000 seating capacity.
With the National Anthem played in the background, floral welcome was showered on the chief guests as the Governor declared the Games open as tricolour balloons were released in the sky while white pigeons were set free.
The first hour of the ceremony was all about the march-past of the athletes and speeches by the dignitaries including that of Munda, Kalmadi and Jharkhand Olympic Association President R K Anand, among others.
Jharkhand's teen sensation and Commonwealth Games archery gold medalist Deepika Kumari started the relay run with the torch from one end of the stadium and passed it on to international pugilist Aruna Mishra.
Former Indian women's hockey captain Sumrai Tete took the torch from Mishra before finally handing it to Olympian hockey player Sylvanus Dung dung.
Dung Dung, who was part of the Indian Olympic hockey team that won gold in 1980 Moscow Games, ignited the giant torch as fire crackers lit up the sky.
The 'baby archer' Deepika, who shot into the limelight at the Commonwealth Games, took the Games oath on behalf of the athletes.
There were also folk dances from Jharkhand-Maanbhum Chhau, Paika, Jhumar, Mudar, Kurukh, Karsa portraying the rich cultural heritage of the tribal-dominated eastern state of India.
A tribute to Jharkhand warrior Birsa Munda in a mesmerising 10-minute performance peppered with Bollywood numbers set the tone for the colourful opening ceremony. Games mascot Chhaua -- baby dear -- made an aerial entry into the athletics complex and ran around the stadium with the torch with echoes of Vande Mataram.
There was a special laser show on eminent Jharkhand sportspersons that included Jaipal Singh Munda, who captained the gold medal winning Olympics hockey team in 1928, Dung Dung, archery coach Sanjeev Kumar Singh, Tete and Indian cricket skipper Dhoni, bringing loud cheers from the crowd. Sukhwinder Singh crooned popular Bollywood numbers, including 'Chhaiya Chhaiya', 'Chak De India'.
In the last part of the show, Bollywood actors Vivek Oberoi, Amisha Patel and Sameera Reddy added the glamour quotient as the opening ceremony stretched to more than three hours.
A laser show followed by dazzling fireworks lit up the sky in the Ranchi outskirts marking the beginning of a new chapter in Jharkhand's sporting history.