India launches 4th CISM Military World Games
October 17, 2007
By Tim Hipps
HYDERABAD, India (Army News Service, Oct. 17, 2007) -- The Opening Ceremony for the largest sporting event in India's long history resembled opening night at the Olympics -- complete with military pomp and circumstance, to boot.
The Counseil International du Sport Militaire's 4th Military World Games officially opened Oct. 14 at Gachibowli Stadium with a colorful celebration of Indian culture that uniquely expressed CISM's goal of striving for world peace by uniting armed forces through sport.
The CISM Military World Games is the largest international military Olympic-style event in the world. In this fourth edition of the games, 101 countries and more than 5,000 athletes are scheduled to compete through Oct. 21 in boxing, diving, football (soccer), handball, judo, military pentathlon, parachuting, sailing, shooting, swimming, volleyball and track and field.
On Sunday, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, president of India and the first woman to serve as supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces, declared the games open. She also released three commemorative postage stamps and a First Day Cover that captured the spirit of the games.
The Indian Air Force's helicopter formation team performed a dazzling display of Sarangs in the air while their Akash Ganga skydiving team had the estimated crowd of more than 15,000 oohing and aahing as they seemingly dropped into the stadium from here, there and everywhere. Akash Ganga is the Hindi name for the "Milky Way" and is roughly translated as "The Ganga of the Sky." It is the ancient Hindu name for the galaxy as viewed from Earth. A Dhruv helicopter showered rose petals on the spectators. The Great Indian Bison character Bravo, the Games' mascot, also descended from the sky to a thunderous round of applause.
Military bands, high-stepping bagpipers and the precision riflery of India's Air Warrior Drill Team launched the four-hour extravaganza. Military athletes from 101 of CISM's 128 member nations marched into the stadium to begin a weeklong competition involving 5,125 athletes and sports officials.
More than 100 countries are competing for the first time in the history of the Military World Games, whose motto is "Friendship through Sports." Representatives of five other other countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmari and Nepal -- came to observe the games. Gaurav Mukherjee, the 22-year-old son of an Army colonel, sang his composition "Play for the World," which set the tone for the evening.
After carrying the Military World Games torch into the stadium, Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who won a silver medal in double-trap shotgun shooting for India at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, lit the Flame atop the other side of the stadium via an electronic remote by placing the torch to a cannon.
Indian men and women dressed in colorful costumes of eras past and present danced the night away. Even the recorded voice of Michael Jackson made the show, with his 1991 release of "Heal The World":
If you care enough for the living Make a little space
Make a better place Heal the world
Make it a better place For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying If you care enough for the living
Make a better place For you and for me
That sentiment was shared by thousands of troops, civilians and local schoolchildren, whose encouraging smiles and sparkling eyes lit the night more magnificently than the grand-finale lazer and fireworks display.
"The show was really good," said U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program racewalker Sgt. John Nunn, a 2004 Oympian who prepped for the Military World Games on a practice track adjacent to the stadium.
"Over the past couple of days, we could hear them putting a lot of effort into the Opening Ceremonies. They clearly took a lot of pride in what it was they were doing. I was very impressed."