Ashgabat 2017: Grand Asian Indoor Games opening ceremony highlights rich culture of Turkmenistan
For several years the country of Turkmenistan has been a mystery to the world. Having received independence as late as 1991, during the disintegration of the Soviet Union, little or nothing was known about the rich heritage of this Central Asian country. However, during a beautiful spectacle at 20:17 on September 17, 2017 in Ashgabat, the world’s second most oil rich country announced themselves to the world.
If you were there at the Ashgabat Olympic stadium on that faithful night, you would’ve been forgiven if the phrase, ‘this only happens at the Olympics’ crossed your mind. More than 10,000 artists, which included dancers, artists, horse riders and acrobats took the stunned audience across a rich and relatively unknown history of the Turkmen people.
A perfect mixture of on ground acrobatics, along with jaw-dropping Computer Generated Graphics produced a magical evening that would put any Olympic opening ceremony to shame. As many 75,000 pieces of costumes were used to recreate the tradition, music and art of a country which has stood the test of time.
A 30 metre cylinder, which was suspended in the middle of the stadium showcased some of the finest graphical design, clubbed along with the country’s growth and tradition so far. From its natural resources, to the finest horses the world has seen, Turkmenistan’s history was perfectly depicted by Milan based production house, Balich Worldwide shows.
A unique introduction within the opening ceremony was including the crowd as a part of programme. Each member of the 45,000 capacity Olympic stadium was asked to wear an LED light and were given an illuminated green hand fan. As the stadium went dark, the lights glowed in perfect harmony to produce a mesmerising sight of colours. This particular inclusion makes Ashgabat 2017, the first sporting opening ceremony to do so.
The central cauldron carried the symbol which has represented Turkmenistan for the past three decades, the famous Akhal Teke horse from the Oghuz Turk dynasty. Over 100 horses and camels of the finest breed participated underlining the rich cultural heritage of the country.
The participation of over 4,700 athletes from 65 countries made Ashgabat 2017 the highest represented Asian Indoor Games in history. It also set a benchmark of sporting unity between two regions – Asia and Oceania as participants from countries such as Australia and New Zealand, participated at the games for the very first time. A refugee team also participated under the Olympic flag for the very first time.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov rightly expressed the dedication of the people of Turkmenistan to host the Games. He said, “We, the people of Turkmenistan have spent over $16 billion to host these games and constructed over 16 venues, including all the hotels and media zones along with athlete villages. This is the first time Turkmenistan is opening up to the world and we didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. I am sure this event will help us open up even more to the world.”
Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah praised the country and the President for the games. He said, “I have followed the supervision of the Games since 2010, and I can assure you Mr Berdimuhamedov relentlessly pursued the growth of these games. These venues and the event is of Olympic standard.”
A dazzling and important story about this unknown culture not only underlined why the world needs to know about Turkmenistan, but it also set an example for several other countries to follow.