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Ashgabat holds lavish opening ceremony for '5th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games’

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A horseman holding Olympic torch during the opening of Ashgabat 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games, Turkmenistan, 18 September 2017. A horseman holding Olympic torch during the opening of Ashgabat 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games, Turkmenistan, 18 September 2017.

ASHGABAT: The 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, featuring over 6000 athletes from 65 nations across the Asia and Oceania, were on Sunday formally opened here at the newly-built dazzling 45,000-seat Ashgabat Olympic Stadium during a lavish ceremony which was also attended by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan.

From dazzling displays of acrobatics on the country’s famous Akhal-Teke horses and images of its beautiful carpets to a song from legendary Turkmen folk artist Jemal Saparova and a spectacular fireworks finale, the show did exactly that.

The grand spectacle, which included 75,000 costume pieces and 700 tons of freight, revolved around a huge cylinder in the middle of the stadium. The structure, 30 meters in diameter and suspended 30 meters above the stadium floor, projected 25 meter-high images and hid entire scene changes, sets and hundreds of members of the cast.

There was a roar of delight from the crowd as fire rose high into the sky from the cauldron atop the stadium after the lighting of the Games flame. The cauldron sits on the neck of a giant white horse monument that was recently recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest architectural portrayal of a horse on the planet.

After the tolling of a bell, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov gave his blessing to the Games and Ashgabat 2017 was officially opened.

Addressing the audience at the opening ceremony, Berdimuhamedov said his administration has spent $5 billion on arenas hosting the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in hope of turning his country into sports power. 

Turkmen President Addressing the Opening Ceremony of Ashgabat 2017 Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games

 “When the souls, hearts and minds of the tribes are united, their troops when gathered will melt stones and ground in their way, when Turkmen gather around one table to share a meal, the destiny of Turkmen will rise high,” Turkmen president added.

Besides the arenas which make up Ashgabat’s so-called Olympic Village, the government also splashed out $2.3 billion on an airport terminal shaped like a falcon.

Meanwhile the Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who singled out the historic participation of Oceania at an Asian Games for the first time, as well as the presence of an all-South Sudanese refugees’ team.

 “The ceremony sets the scene for what is to come over the next few days highlighting not only the sports action but the feelings of unity and solidarity among all participants to make the Games a success,” Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad Al Sabah said in his speech.

“This is the first time that Oceania nations have been honored to also become part of the extravaganza,” he said.

A huge crowd attended the ceremony which began at 8pm local time.  Some superb shows embellished the ceremony.

The audience in the stadium played an active part in the show, with LED devices that were programmed to emit light at precise moments during the show, such as during the Athletes Parade.  

The Parade had a fresh and creative element, with the procedure featuring flag projections onto the central cylinder.  

Afghanistan caravan at the 5th Asian Indoor & Martial Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Sept 18, 2017.

The Ceremony, developed by industry-leading Balich Worldwide Shows and directed by Francisco Negrin, represented Turkmenistan’s enormous cultural richness and depth, and set the tone for what is to be the biggest sporting event ever held in Central Asia.  

A team consisting of 742 representatives from 39 countries was working over the opening ceremony of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Francisco Negrin, creative director for world-renowned production company Balich Worldwide Shows, said during a press conference before starting of the official opening ceremony.

“The organizing company called the opening ceremony "Spirit of Turkmenistan" and will try to create a new level of perception of the country for the international audience,” Negrin said.

The ceremony involved more than 7,000 artists, including more than 2,000 professional dancers, musicians and performers. Moreover, 5,475 volunteers and 54 children worked at the opening ceremony in the new 45,000-seat Olympic stadium.

 Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Ju-jitsu fighter;1Hussain Bakhsh Safri got gold medal while Jawid Ahmad Amiri achieved silver in wrestling competition men’s duo show on Saturday, acted as the flag-bearer of the Afghanistan’s contingent during the march-past.

Afghanistan’s national Futsal team bet China with 6 goals in its series of competition, while Bilal Zazai defeated his Saudi Arabian rival in Taekwondo matches.

In his interview with The Kabul Times correspondent based in Ashgabat, Zazai said was happy to win first match and hoped to clinch gold medal for his country.

 Bilal Zazai speaking with The Kabul Times Correspondent in Ashgabat


 “I would like to thank my trainers and my people for their hard works and supports. Although it was my first match here and couldn’t defeat my rival in initial stages, but will try my best to do more to win,” Zazai said.

215 athletes with 30 percent of them females, are taking part in the Ashgabat 2017 Asian games.

While welcoming Afghan president to Ashgabat, he Turkmen president said he was very happy over the presence of his Afghan counterpart at the inauguration. He wished success to the Afghan players and told the Afghan president that he supported more the Afghan players than his own.

President Ghani congratulated his counterpart over the conduct of the Asian Games and said sports could bring together the region and the world.

“Our relations are deep, multi-dimensional and friendly, Afghanistan considers the happiness of Turkmen people as its own,” President Ghani said.

 “I came here because I can never say no to my brother, because your decisions regarding Turkmenistan and Afghanistan relations are historic.”

Over the 12-days of competition at Ashgabat 2017, 4500 athletes from 65 delegations will compete in 347 medal events across 21 sports.