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Friday, December 01, 2006

The start of the Qatar Asian Games

Fireworks signal the start of the Asian Games in Doha, QatarToday saw the opening ceremony of the Asian Games. Part of the ceremony told the story of a pearl diver (“The Seeker”), lost at sea after a storm, and saved from the Old Man of the sea by a golden falcon. He is picked up by the falcon and carried away to discover the wealth of Asia, before finally returning wealthy to his betrothed. We then got to saw women perform a wedding dance in traditional (not black) clothing – not something men often get to see in Qatar.

There was a very effective replication of sea and waves projected onto the stadium floor, and afterwards we, “The Seeker” and his son watched as the development of technology through the ages, from Galileo to space rockets, was represented by giant models ridden by gold suited acrobats. Finally, the speaker announced, Qatar came to the golden age of oil and gas. It was interesting to reflect that Qatar had come from a few pearl fishers and nomads (with a population numbering, not so long ago, only about thirty thousand) to be very nearly the richest country in the world. Not in centuries, as represented in the Games, but a few short decades – my friend’s father was still riding camels and living in a tent only forty years ago.

The finale of the games saw one of the Emir’s son ride at a gallop up a walkway to light the Asian Games fire. The climb was quite steep and the horse stumbled and nearly lost its footing – for a second it all looked like it could come to a sudden end. However, the fire was lighted successfully, and after some speeches the Games were finally declared open.

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