Bangladesh hosts Cricket World Cup opening ceremony
Bangladeshis cast aside their usual docile and reserved image today and proudly displayed their sporting passion at the gala opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup later in the capital.
The $30 million jamboree, jointly organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), was opened by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after captains from the 14 participating nations were paraded around the Bangabandhu National Stadium on traditional cycle rickshaws.
Outside, on the often chaotic and jam-packed Dhaka roads, traffic was relatively light with the government declaring the day a half-day public holiday to allow people to watch the dazzling opening ceremony.
"We feel greatly privileged to co-host the cricket extravaganza in our beautiful country," Hasina told the crowd.
"I congratulate my cricket-loving countrymen for their great enthusiasm and cooperation to make this event a grand success.
"Good luck to the players and I hope that fraternity among the nations will further be strengthened through this World Cup."
The highlight of the two-hour spectacle was an aerial cricket match, where high-flying acrobats hit and chased after a laser-beamed ball against a vertical backdrop of a playing pitch.
A mock intruder, suspended on an abseiling rope, even ran across the ground to draw hoots of laughter from the 25,000 sell-out crowd.
A host of singers and dancers from the three host countries were joined by Grammy award-winning Canadian singer Bryan Adams.
With his hair slicked back and sporting a black shirt, Adams rocked the arena with a medley of his hits including the Summer of 69.
It is the first time the country, which is slowly making a mark in world one-day cricket if not the five-day test version, has helped stage the showpiece event which will last from February 19 to April 2.
The country, whose population of more than 160 million has suffered more than its fair share of natural disasters, is jointly hosting with India and Sri Lanka and thoroughly enjoying its rare moment in the sporting spotlight.
"We will be able to improve our image if we can successfully .... host the World Cup matches slated for us," Mostafa Kamal, president of Bangladesh Cricket Board, told reporters.
Bangladesh will stage the tournament's opening match between India and Bangladesh at Shere Bangla National Stadium in the Mirpur area of Dhaka on Saturday.
Six Group B matches and two quarter-final matches will be played until March 25 in Dhaka and the main port city of Chittagong.
Schools will remain closed on match days in Dhaka and Chittagong, the government has decreed.
Huge replicas of cricket bats, balls, players and even grounds have been erected at important road intersections in Dhaka which, unlike several Indian cities, is awash with reminders that the Cricket World Cup is here.
The city authorities have renovated the streets, painted the road sides and footpaths and residents have festooned their homes and neighbourhoods with cricket-themed decorations.
Cricket venues and important thoroughfares have been specially illuminated at night and will continue to be lit up throughout the six-week tournament to add to the carnival atmosphere.
"Dhaka is looking very beautiful, ready and attractive," Basirah Alam, a New Zealand-based Bangladeshi who has returned home on a visit to her parents.
Traffic and "unnecessary" movement of the public has been restricted by the authorities which suited Abdul Mannan, a cab driver of a big Dhaka hotel. "Driving is easy and there is no hassle," he said.
Despite the party mood, authorities were taking no chances with security in a notoriously volatile region where memories of the gun attack in Pakistan on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in 2009 are still fresh.
That resulted in a ban by the ICC on Pakistan hosting international matches which still endures. It was to have shared the honour of hosting this World Cup.
Diego Costa injury: Chelsea striker a doubt for Everton match after suffering muscle injury
Mario Balotelli posts hilarious Beatles picture on Instagram as he awaits Liverpool debut
Arsenal vs Besiktas player ratings: Alexis Sanchez? Jack Wilshere? Mesut Ozil? Who was the star man at the Emirates Stadium?
Champions League draw: Liverpool meet Real Madrid, but should they fear facing the reigning champions?
William Carvalho to Manchester United: Midfielder on the cards for Louis van Gaal after Arturo Vidal doubts grow
- 1 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage