In two uniquely choreographed ceremonies at Christchurch and Melbourne, the 11th edition of ICC Cricket World Cup got off to a rousing official start. At both places, the events were marked with the celebrations of local and international culture, sumptuous music, dance and fireworks. In Christchurch’s Hagley Park, the entire city welcomed world cricket’s most glittering showpiece event even as the celebrations acquired a sentimental overtone in trying to come to terms with a large-scale devastation caused by a massive earthquake exactly four years ago. This is going to be the biggest event in Christchurch after the city center was wiped out as a result of an unprecedented disaster. 185 lives were lost and reconstruction and rehabilitation still continues at many places. The opening ceremony was held at a venue that is just a few hundred yards from the erstwhile city center. The tragic event took place at a time, when Christchurch was gearing itself to host some matches of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Those matches had to be shifted elsewhere. Christchurch Mayor Leanne Dalziell was present at the opening ceremony yesterday with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key standing by her side. The PM said that hosting the ceremony at Christchurch was only too fitting. At Melbourne, the con-current event was hosted by Sidney Myer Music Bowl and also attracted a huge crowd. It is after 23 years that the World Cup has returned to Australia and New Zealand.
In Christchurch, thousands assembled at Hagley Park and elsewhere in the city to welcome 2015 World Cup in a glittering ceremony, focused on the community. The event was free for public and began with four theme cricket matches at a Caribbean corner, a Kiwiana mini-venue, a South Asian station and a Victorian-themed venue, where fancily dressed male and female cricketers played with a WG Grace painting overlooking them. Afterwards, a Sri Lankan troupe performed a Kandyan dance, followed by a Bollywood-style act. There was a bagpiper too, with an impressive solo performance and an Irish river dance. In the evening, a Maori cultural group performed in addition to many popular New Zealand musical acts. Several past and present cricketers attended the carnival including; Chris Harris, Rod Latham and Geoff Allott. Six matches will be played in New Zealand and these players highlighted the matches from six towers. They were later joined by Richard Hadlee and Stephen Fleming. Brendon McCullum was garbed as a young boy with a dream of becoming a great cricketer. To realize his dream, he was helped by Lasith Malinga, Peter Jackson and several other New Zealand celebrities. Prime Minister John Key also posed for a picture with McCullum. In her speech, Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke emotionally with the emphasis on hard times that her city faced since the earthquake. She mentioned about the cancellation of 2011, Rugby World Cup matches saying that the long wait was now over and the city had prepared itself to host the six World Cup games, beginning Saturday. ICC Chief Executive David Richardson unveiled the Cricket World Cup trophy and billed it as a symbol of ICC’s values of excellence, integrity and inclusion. The glorious event concluded with one of the biggest fireworks displays ever seen in Christchurch even as John Key declared the 2015 World Cup officially open.
The concurrent second act of CWC ceremony was no less spectacular at Melbourne. Held at the iconic MCG, arguably the biggest cricket stadium in the world, the show was highlighted by an 18 feet tall illuminated batsman called ‘The Player’. It was set into motion by a team of 8 accomplished puppeteers. The entire English cricket team attended the show with Irish and Scottish Captains Preston Mommsen and William Porterfield taking leaves from their team’s warm-up matches in Sydney to be present on the occasion. First timers Afghanistan were represented by Captain Mohammad Nabi and his colleagues. 10000 people gathered at the MCG for the show that was beamed live to millions of viewers across the globe. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl got transformed into a day-night cricket match, where captains of participating nations converged. The giant puppet represented cricketers around the world and rose to its feet as the orchestra played around him. ‘The Player’ took the audience from the dressing room to the crease with his bat raised in celebration. Earlier, there were music-and-dance shows by Scottish pipers, Bollywood dancers, gum-booted South African duo and a ballet by a British group set to a Beatles concerto. While Daryl Braithwaite sang “Howzat”, Jessica Mauboy echoed “Can I Get a Moment?”, Tina Arena rendered “Heaven Help my Heart”, a Jhoom Bollywood Dance Company sang ‘Dhating Naach’ from Indian movie “Phata Poster Nikla Hero”. Even Mahendra Singh Dhoni couldn’t stifle a smile as he applauded that performance. 10 captains walked out on stage with their national flags. Expectedly, Michael Clarke was greeted with the loudest cheers, though he would be missing the opening match against England on Saturday because of injury.
With the ceremonies done with, cricket fans now await the World Cup opener between hosts New Zealand and 1996 champions Sri Lanka at Christchurch on February 14 to be followed by another power-packed encounter between traditional rivals Australia and England at Melbourne on the same day.