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Astana, January 30: The 7th Asian Winter Games, the continent’s largest sports event of this year, was launched with a grandiose opening ceremony in the capital’s flashy  Astana Arena stadium on January 30.

Kazakhstan is the first nation among the post-Soviet countries and in the Muslim world to host the event. “It is a vivid sign of respect for and confidence in Kazakhstan,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during the ceremony that gathered almost 30,000 spectators. “Today, the Olympic Games are threads of friendship which unite peoples and countries. I am convinced that the spirit of the Asian Games will bring us together on the native Kazakh land,” Nazarbayev noted.

With regard to the Central Asian nation’s ability to host such large-scale tournaments, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge, who is on a visit to Kazakhstan, said the country has all the prerequisites to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. He believes Kazakhstan has proper infrastructure, excellent geographical position with ice and snow, and extensive experience in sports illustrated by recognised champions and athletes. Rogge added that although there would be other candidates as well, Kazakhstan had good potential to challenge them.

In addition to Rogge, other high-level guests attending the Asiad’s opening ceremony included Kyrgyzstan’s President Roza Otunbayeva, President of the Olympic Committee of Asia (OCA) Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, and Prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The opening ceremony started with raising the flags of Kazakhstan and OCA. The nation’s prominent athletes carried the Kazakh flag to the main stage where it was raised by the Honour Guard of the Republican Guard. This was followed by a parade of athletes from the 27 countries taking part in the games and a fascinating illuminative show.

The storyline of the show was based on the most important philosophical ideas of the Kazakh people. During the event, the main points of the country’s history, as well its culture, art, and traditions were demonstrated.

“There are things in life that cannot be missed. Today, we all witnessed an unforgettable spectacle, the unprecedented event on the Kazakh soil. It was a very beautiful and eventful show,” Nail Nurov, head of Astana direction for arrangements of the 7th Asian Winter Games, said.

A total of 700 professional actors and dancers were involved in the ceremony. The total screen space at the stadium was 10,000 square metres.

“The technology used at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Asian Games is unique. Some of the tricks, techniques, and special effects have not been previously used anywhere else,” the Director of the Opening Ceremony Alexei Sechenov said before the event.

In his welcome speech, Mayor of Astana Imangali Tasmagambetov congratulated everyone on the beginning of the and wished eventful and productive tournament. “The victory in sport is not just the victory of one athlete, but of the whole country,” he said.

President of the OCA Ahmad Al-Sabah greeted the audience too, and the local crowd especially welcomed his regards pronounced in the Kazakh language.

“Kazakhstan has become a respected member of the international sporting community. The Olympic Council of Asia congratulates President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Government of the Republic, and the mayors and residents of Astana and Almaty,” Ahmad Al-Sabah said.

“Sport knows no boundaries and unites people… Let the most deserving win in a fair fight… Let the noble flame of the Asian Games become a symbol of eternal friendship,” Nazarbayev said, as he declared the 7th Asian Winter Games open.

The Asian Winter Games will last till February 6, with 69 sets of medals in 11 sports up for grabs. The closing ceremony will take place at the Baluan Sholak Sport Palace in Almaty.

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2010