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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Asian Games end with spectacular Closing Ceremony
An ocean of fans streamed into Khalifa Stadium for the Closing Ceremony of the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 where all Qatar and all Qataris gave a huge thank you to the world, to the athletes, officials and spectators who made these the Games of your Life.
In fact, personalities from every one of the 45 nations and regions taking part strode eagerly through the gates to get to the show in great time, some arriving before 15:00 for a show that started at 20:00. Meanwhile thousands more waited outside in the vain hope that some last-minute tickets for the sell-out show might become available in the hours before it begins, or perhaps just to absorb some of the atmosphere.
"I hope you had a very great time, I hope these games were great," a fan claimed. "Do you practice any sport? You should, sport is so important."
It's interesting to know that Saji Kumas, a resident in Doha for the last five years was outside the Khalifa Stadium taking photographs with his wife and young son. He expressed, "I think that the Closing Ceremony will be one of the greatest shows of our life. We couldn't go to the Opening Ceremony, but we have been to so many events over the last 15 days and expect something more from the Closing Ceremony.
"This will be a nice memory for our son. I remember seeing fireworks as a five year-old and I want him to remember this experience like I did."
What's more, Rami G Saba from Lebanon came with his family and is extremely fired up for the Closing Ceremony, "The Opening Ceremony was extremely fantastic, so I'm hoping this will be just as great.
The Khalifa Stadium is boiling and high atop the Sports Tower the flame burns more brightly. Inside the stadium, the Games Flame in its stunning, articulated Cauldron sends its golden flames into the darkness, lighting the gold rings in which it is suspended.
And the lights of Sport City come alive; the blues of ASPIRE, the violet of Sports Tower and the twinkling white of the stadium itself. Thousands of spectators stream to their seats and sit to watch some of the cherished moments of the Asian Games on the huge screen above the seats.
Accompanied by a dramatic, full orchestral score the most memorable sporting moments of the 15th Asian Games were once more shown to responsive and appreciative spectators.
It's great to mention that ten thousand athletes and more have given Asia and the world countless moments to treasure, now it is the turn of 1,500 performers to do the same.
As we know, names like Liu Xiang, Park Tae Wwan, Shami and, tonight, Bilal have dominated our attention, now, in the time of the One Thousand and One Nights, it is the turn of Ali Baba, Aladdin, Sinbad; Scheherazade.
The atmosphere crackles backstage as dancers, singers and acrobats prepare to round off Doha 2006 with their skill and talent. The athletes mingle as they get ready, as each individual readies themselves for the performance to come. Some lie alone in their thoughts, others listen to music, some pace restlessly or limber-up, stretching and twisting to ease the tension.
Though darkness has descended on Doha, backstage it is anything but a black night. Shimmering costumes of purple, blue, red and green; indeed every colour imaginable, hang on the rails ready to be shown to the globe.
A group of kids from the Ministry of Education Services, who will be the little genies in the show, generate a playground atmosphere. Some are playing with a football – being Bilal no doubt – others run excitedly, girls compare costumes.
Also backstage, a cast from the host city of the new Asian Games, Guangzhou made their final preparations for their 10 minute hand-over section of the show. One person quietly irons a Chinese flag, while another twirls an Orry soft toy in his hands and eyes it speculatively.
Audience expectation increases as they are instructed on how and at the time to use their participation pack during the spectacle.
A light star, a lantern promises a son et lumiere spectacular to take the breath away.
And indeed it left you breathless. The creators had cooked up a magnificent feast of sight and sound by concocting a recipe from music, dance, acrobatics, cabaret and high wire acts.
Part circus, part Broadway extravaganza, the Closing Ceremony began with a magic carpet that brought a torch to the Asian Games Flame and carried the Flame away as the Doha 2006 Cauldron was extinguished.
Then Scheherazade, perched improbably on a sliver of moonlight , floated over the stadium as the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves opened the show.
During the performance there was a spectacular display of aerial dancing, of performers who were suspended from a fleet of ethereal white boats above the arena. This was the aerial ballet that had been prevented from being used during the Opening Ceremony thanks to the high winds at that time – but conditions were perfect on the Closing Ceremony moment.
That story segued perfectly with Sinbad running to Ail Baba’s rescue and then fighting the thieves. Just as the fighting reached its heaviest, Aladdin summoned the Genie of the Lamp to restore peace.
And as peace descended on the stadium, the Genie gave Aladdin the Astrolabe that had been such a feature of the Opening Ceremony with the representation of the Games Flame within.
But that was not it. In a moving and surprise ending, Aladdin presented the Astrolabe to HH The Emir and the audience was left to catch its breath.
But not for long. The crowd went ballistic with the arrival of most of the athletes parade and then the stunning presentation of dance, song, costume and even calligraphy to celebrate the passing of the Asian Games Torch and the Asian Games flag to the representatives of the 2010 host city, Guangzhou.
As the spectacle concluded in an almost unbelievable fireworks display, the crowd was ecstatic. Each explosion of sound and colour marked a counterpoint to the music and lifted the cheering crowd to their feet, as the Closing Ceremony brought the Games of your Life to a stunning climax.
They are one of the biggest surprises of the Games. Iraqis celebrated with gunfire and cheers in Baghdad on Tuesday after the national soccer team advanced to the final at Doha 2006.
Indeed, Iraq defeated South Korea 1-0 in the semifinals and will compete Friday against host Qatar for its first gold medal in soccer in more than two decades. Qatar defeated defending champion Iran 2-0 in the other semifinal.
This win offered some relief from the daily violence in their country: "All of us gathered in one home to enjoy watching our team, such a result will make everybody happy, despite the hard security situation," Iraqi tennis player Akram Mustafa Abdul Karim expressed.
According to the records, Iraq scored 24 minutes into the game, when Ahmed Mohammed slipped a long pass beyond Kim Chi-gon to captain Younes Khalef, who raced down the field and faked out the keeper only to have his shot blocked by defender Kim Jin-kyu.
We must mention that Samer Mujabel picked up the deflection and headed it for the goal.
It's interesting to know Salam Abdul Wahed, who owns a convenience store in Diwaniyah, 130 kilometres south of the capital. He plans to follow through with a promise to treat his friends to lunch if the squad won.
The 2006 Asian Games had a terrible shock Thursday with the death of South Korean rider Kim Hyung-chil, crushed by his horse during the equestrian event on a rainy sixth day of competition.
That's why a minute of silence was observed at all competition venues shortly after Kim's death, the first to occur during competition in the Asian Games' 55-year history.
But it's good to mention that Japan won three gold medals on the final night at the pool to finish the Games even with China in swimming.
What's more, dual Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima took gold in the 200-metre breaststroke, Junya Koga won the 50 backstroke and the Japanese men won the 4x100 medley relay.
"I feel kind of relieved because I won the gold medal," Kitajima admitted. "I couldn't swim a great time, but I am happy to contribute to the team."
In fact, China's only gold of the night came from Qi Hui in the women's 200 individual medley. Going into the last night of swimming, China had a 15-13 cushion on gold medals over Japan, having started the program with five victories in six finals on the opening night.
South Korean Park Tae-hwan earned the gold of the men's 1,500 with a time of 14 minutes, 55.03 seconds for his third gold of the meet, while Tao Li of Singapore won the women's 50 butterfly.
It's important to notice that Jordan won its first ever Asian Games gold medal when Mohammad Al Bakhit beat Vasavat Somswang of Thailand in the men's 54-kilogram taekwondo final,
Furthermore, the track and field program got underway Thursday with Han Yucheng of China shrugging off the wet conditions to win the first athletics gold medal of the games in the 20-kilometre walk.
As for Han, the 2003 Asian champion, he did not collect a single warning on the way to his time of 1:21:41 seconds, ahead of silver medallist Kim Hyun-sub in 1:23.12, who earned South Korea's first ever medal in the event.
Also China's Liu Hong won the women's walk in 1:32:19, ahead of Ryoko Sakakura of Japan and He Dan of China.
The main track and field program begins Friday at the great Khalifa Stadium.
Japanese athletes won the men's four rowing event and Shin Eun-chul took gold in the men's single sculls for South Korea to break up a Chinese sweep at the rowing.
And in the popular baseball events, Taiwan won its first Asian Games gold medal after first baseman Lin Chih-sheng's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning earned an 8-7 victory over Japan.
South Korea put 10 unanswered goals past Oman goalkeeper Dawood Siddiq to firm its claim for a semifinals place in the men's field hockey.
It's important to mention that Thursday's men's and women's team tennis final and the soft tennis were postponed by the rain in this desert city, with more heavy showers forecast for Friday.
China advanced to the quarter-finals in men's basketball
Asian powerhouse and current champion China stormed into the quarter-finals of the Doha Asian Games men's basketball tournament after beating Chinese Taipei 101-65 on Wednesday.
It's great to see that NBA prospect Yi Jianlian produced his best performance so far, scoring 28 points to lead the Chinese secure its third straight victory and a top four finish from its round-robin group with two matches remaining.
Actually Chinese Taipei fought bravely in the first quarter, jumping to a 12-6 lead and held it to 13-11. China overtook the lead 24-23 at the end of the quarter before pulling away with a 19-0 run early in the second quarter to go up 45-25.
Yi, the 2.12-meter power forward who had announced for the next year's NBA draft, shot 9-for-10 from the field in 16 minutes to rise China to a 52-33 lead at the half time.
We must consider that as his side improved to 80-46 at the end of the third quarter, China head coach Jonas Kazlauskas rested his starters in the fourth.
In the end, the records say that Zhu Fangyu and Hu Xuefeng added 18 and 16 points respectively for China.
The table tennis events were full of emotion. Despite the expectations, Singapore bagged another bronze in the Asian Games in Doha, after paddler Li Jiawei lost to China's Guo Yue in the women's singles semi-final encounter.
Indeed, Guo beat Li 11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-7 to go into the final.
25-year-old Li is seeded 4th while 18-year-old Guo is seeded second for the championship. And Guo lived to her billing, taking the first game 11-7 in just five minutes. But Li fought back to take the second game 11-6.
Play was more even in the third game, but Guo went on to win 12-10. Guo piled on the pressure as she took the next game, 11-5.
It is fair to say that Li was still determined to give a good fight, but succumbed 11-7, giving Guo a 4-1 victory and a place in the final match.
It was a really touching moment for Malaysia. Artistic gymnast Ng Shu Wai had blisters on his hands and opted out of the individual all-around finals. And his move paid off handsomely when he vaulted his way into the history books as the first Malaysian to earn an Asian Games medal in gymnastics.
As we said, Shu Wai bagged a silver in the vault final at Aspire Hall 2 yesterday with a average of 16.487.
Actually, it could have been a gold had Shu Wai executed a better first vault. We must consider that Shu Wai was the sixth of the eight gymnasts out to perform the two vaults.
Amazingly, his first attempt, a two-and-a-half twist, was only worth 16.325. But the 21-year-old nailed a podium finish with a superb second attempt, earning the second highest point of 16.650.
Ri Se-gwang gave North Korea their first-ever gymnastics gold medal with a flawless second try of 16.675 for a winning average of 16.625.
Furthermore, Kazakhstan’s Yernar Yerimbetov, who was fourth in vault in the World Championships and the first to start yesterday, took bronze on 16.300.
WE can say that Shu Wai wore a nervous look before the start of the competition but was all smiles after he completed his routines.
“I stepped outside the mat a bit when I landed in the first attempt and it affected my score. But I’m still happy with what I have achieved. It’s still the first medal for Malaysia in gymnastics,” said the Taiping-born lad, who had difficulty getting a coach to train him in China in the run-up to the Asian Games.
South Korea's amazing equestrian record at the 2006 Asian Games continued Monday when it won the team dressage event for the fourth time in the last five encounters.
In fact, the South Korean team, composed of Choi Jun-sang, Kim Dong-seon, Shin Soo-jim and Suh Jung-kyun, picked up 65.777 points. Malaysia was second with 64.222 while Japan won the bronze with 64.188.
We can say that in dressage, the horse performs set movements or tests in response to its rider's signals over three rounds.
In the first two, the horse and rider perform a set routine of dressage movements, including passages, pirouettes and piaffes in a walk, trot and canter. The third round is freestyle, with routines individually choreographed and performed to music.
As we know, Choi and Suh are also the defending individual gold and silver medalists from Busan, South Korea in 2002.
It's important to remember that Suh's gold was his sixth at the Asian Games in his career. He had previously won gold medals in 1986 and 1998 — both team and individual — and in 2002 (team), making him the most successful rider in the history of the games.
Suh could soon make it seven — after qualifying Monday for Tuesday's individual medals in dressage, Suh led aboard Caleostro.
Also Japan's Yukiko Noge on Lanchester Kouko was second and Mahamad Fathil of Malaysia, riding Charming, was third.
Suh admittedhe held a bit back Monday: "I really did not want to push my horse, I only went 70 percent."
Noge, whose performance on Lanchester Kouko saved the bronze medal for Japan, said she felt confident going into the individual challenge.
"I think he was so concentrated ... the canter was great today, and the pirouettes even more," Noge said of her horse. "After the second pirouette I felt so happy I had to remember to concentrate on the rest."
Japan football team was really close to set a new Asian Games record, when they trashed Jordan 13-0 in the women's competition. The result is the third-highest winning margin in the history of the competition. Only China (16-0 against India) and North Korea (15-0 against Thailand) have registered higher scores. We must keep in mind that Japan also had three goals disallowed and hit the bar three times.
It's good to mention that Mizuho Sakaguchi top-scored for Japan with five second-half goals.
It's important to look at the athletics disciplines now. Local favourite Saif Saaeed Shaheen withdrew from the Asian Games. The Kenyan-born athlete, who now competes for Qatar, was favoured to win the 3,000 metres steeplechase, as well as the 5,000 metres for a rare double for the hosts.
He had to withdraw after an Achilles tendon injury, for which he had been receiving daily treatment over several months, had not healed sufficiently to allow him to participate.
Shaheen's withdrawal leaves China's Liu Xiang as the only current world record holder competing in the athletics competition in Doha. Liu holds the world record for the 110m hurdles.
In Badminton, South Korean badminton player Lee Hyun Il, who is ranked 7th in the world and is one of the favourites to take the gold in the singles, crashed to an upset 2-1 defeat against Vietnam's Quang Minh Nguyen in the men's team event. Although South Korea comfortably won 4-1, Lee's defeat was not expected. The Korean won the silver medal at the last Asian Games.
Now lets talk about baseball, because Chinese Taipei took a giant step towards winning their first-ever gold medal in baseball when they stunned the defending champions South Korea 4-2. As the competition is being played on a round-robin basis without a final, Taipei must now be considered as favourites to take the gold medal. In their three previous starts in the baseball competition at the Asian Games, they have got medals: silver (2002) and bronze (1998, 1994).
It was a real pleasure for the eyes. A spectacular Opening Ceremony to mark the official start of the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 took place today at the Khalifa stadium in the city of Doha, Qatar.
The highly expected Opening Ceremony commenced at the 50,000-capacity stadium at 7.10pm local time Friday after more than two hours of pre-show entertainment.
And fusioning elements of desert and sea, the audience was taken on a journey of Arab traditional culture and high-tech wizardry to reflect the young and progressive Qatar that wants to be seen as part of Asia while being proud of its place in the Islamic and Arab world which was once a scientific and trading giant.
We must say that His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, opened the Games, and as well as a large array of world leaders and dignitaries, was joined from the world of sport by President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge.
At 9.45pm, the 15th Asian Games Doha was declared open in a display of pyrotechnics and laser by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, following speeches by chairman of the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Sheikh Amad Al-Fahed Al-Sabah.
In fact, ahe Athletics programme takes place in the Khalifa stadium and will last for six days beginning on Thursday 7 December 2006 with the 20km Race Walking events. My site here will be providing daily news, results and photographs of the different disciplines.
Doha 2006 Opening Ceremony: the greatest in history
With millions of dollars invested, Doha wants the world to know that the Asian Games opening ceremony tomorrow will be the best in history.
We can comfirm that the ceremony will last three hours and 20 minutes and it is produced and directed by the man responsible for the spectacular Sydney Olympics opening ceremony. So Doha Asian Games Organising Committee (DAGOC) say they have produced the most technologically advanced ceremony ever.
In fact, artistic director David Atkins said the event was two years in the planning and will be the most multi-cultural and multi-national opening ceremony ever.
"I don't believe you could have done this ceremony in Sydney because of the level of commitment that was required from DAGOC," he expressed.
"We have been really ambitious and have very, very grand aspirations. There are four ground-breaking key elements to the ceremony that have never been seen before." Media were banned from the final rehearsals last night under a cloak of secrecy. It was announced yesterday that the 500 Qatari riyal tickets to the 40,000-seater Khalifa stadium were completely sold out.
It's good to mention that International Olympic Committee President Dr Jacques Rogge will be a guest of honour.
And the city of Doha, which has made no secret of its desire to host the 2016 Olympics, will be hoping he is paying attention to exactly what a small, yet ambitious Gulf nation can achieve.
Despite the great expectations, Sharif Hashisho, DAGOC's director of ceremonies and cultural affairs, insisted that they were taking things one step at a time. "It's too early to be talking about the Olympics," he told the press.