Fourteen captains rode around the arena in cycle-rickshaws and breathtaking laser shows simulated the experience of the 22-yard pitch as the cricket World Cup got off to a rousing start here Thursday evening, showcasing the diverse cultures of the three South Asian neighbours co-hosting the mega event.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the tournament open by placing her hand on a palm scanner which triggered off a high-voltage fireworks display much to the joy of around 25,000 spectators at the packed Bangabandhu Stadium here.
'I declare the ICC World Cup open,' said Hasina, hoping the mega event would help strengthen fraternal ties between the cricketing countries and said Bangladesh felt privileged to co-host the big event.
ICC president Sharad Pawar called it a 'historic' day and said the tournament would be ever etched in the memory of the people.
The world's cricketing celebrities will now engage in a tussle for supremacy at 13 venues spread over the three nations which will stage 49 games involving the 14 participating nations with the grand finale April 2 in Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium.
The 135-minute opening ceremony, that began with the rendering of the Bangladesh national anthem 'Amar Sonar Bangla' composed by nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, kept the spectators at the stadium and millions others watching it on television spellbound.
In a fine mix of technology and tradition, laser shows and cycle rickshaws took the centrestage, Canadian rocker Bryan Adams belted out his popular numbers including 'Cuts like a knife', 'Summer of 69' and 'Eighteen till I die', while Indian singer Sonu Nigam rendered his self-composed English song 'Rise for glory'. Bangladesh-based Runa Laila and Sabina Yasmin also sang their age-old numbers to enthrall the crowd during the programme stitched together by over 3,500 artistes.
The cycle rickshaw, the common man's transport in Bangladesh, brought the mascot 'Stumpy' into the stadium followed by the 14 captains.
The stadium got bathed in yellow light, as Australian captain Ricky Ponting was the first to arrive on a colourful and embellished rickshaw that was brightly illuminated in white light.
The other captains then followed in an alphabetical order, with the flag of their nations fluttering from each vehicle. The biggest cheers were reserved for Bangladesh skipper Shakib-Al Hassan, whose rickshaw made up the rear of the caravan.
A brief audio-visual presentation recalled the golden moments of the preceding ICC World Cups, before a laser show depicted the kite, and gave a simulated cricketing experience. It made use of a nearby 24-storey edifice 'Shilpa Bank Bhavan' as the World Cup trophy seemed to descend on the ground from the building.
Each of the co-hosts then gave a presentation on their rich and diverse culture. Indian artistes showcased various festivals including the Holi as the popular song Rang De Basanti played in the background. The performers also formed a diya.
The Sri Lankan artists created a sea in the center of the arena as the island nation was projected as the pearl of the Indian ocean.
The Bangladesh presentation depicted the war of liberation, as a taped video speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's founding father, was played.
Bangladesh's language movement that saw the martyrdom of three students for the sake of their mothertongue was shown besides the tribal dances of Chakmas, Rakaines, Marmas, Shautals and Garos.
The Bengali New Year was also brought alive through song, dance and visual effects. Compositions of Tagore and other celebrated Bengali composers made for a soothing experience as the audience listened in rapt attention, frequently joining in the chorus.
As the ceremony drew to a close, Indian composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy performed the official World Cup anthem 'De ghuma ke' in three languages - Hindi, Sinhalese and Bengali.
The action now shifts to the cricket field. Come Saturday and co-hosts India and Bangladesh will clash here, a day before Sri Lanka take on lowly Canada in Colombo.