In what was a celebration of a nation blessed with an abundance of Sun, sand and sea, the first-ever Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games were officially launched at Katara on Saturday with a tasteful opening ceremony that blended traditional local culture with modern international sport.
Hundreds of athletes from 97 countries enjoyed a gloriously choreographed evening of entertainment in the Amphitheatre of Katara Beach where a vast majority of the action is taking place until October 16.
A cultural programme based on Qatar's traditions and history was staged on the occasion of the official opening. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
While the ceremony provided the formal launch to proceedings, the Games have already hosted two days of world-class action with Saturday’s competitions following on from Friday’s quality opening day.
HE Sheikh Joan bin Hamad al-Thani, the President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, declared the Games open after the opening ceremony, as Qatar added a new page to its already glorious sporting history.
Earlier, Jassim Rashid al-Buenain, the Secretary-General of the QOC and General Director of the Games, welcomed the athletes to Qatar, saying he hoped the event would leave a lasting legacy.
“We embrace this opportunity because it brings nations, athletes and fans closer together in sport," said al-Buenain.
“We also believe that such events nurture greater culture exchange, understanding and harmony. The State of Qatar considers sport, in its various forms, a pillar of its current and future sustainability.
“Key among our areas of focus are the development of sporting infrastructure, talent, skill and knowledge.”
He added that the Games would add to a new chapter to worldwide legacy of sport.
“We hope these Games will contribute to the enduring global legacy of these sporting disciplines and thank ANOC for their trust and cooperation, and also thank all who contributed to the organisation of these Games.”
ANOC Acting President Robin Mitchell thanked Qatar for hosting the event, saying it would be celebration of the largest ever beach sports event to date.
"This is the first, and only, truly global festival of beach, water and action sports,” said Mitchell.
"And we believe that this innovative new multisport concept is helping NOCs connect with new sports, new stars and a new generation of sports fans for the first time.
"I wish all you athletes and NOCs the very best of luck and a successful and enjoyable stay in Qatar.”
He also thanked His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and the Qatar Olympic Committee – for their warm and welcoming hospitality.
"You have been excellent partners and we are very grateful for your support, dedication and hard work.
"As I am sure everyone has seen, the facilities here in Doha are of a very high standard. This is the outcome of all the work the Organising Committee has put in, in just three short months.
"We have no doubt that these facilities will provide an excellent environment for athletes to compete at their very best over the coming days."
The opening ceremony began with the traditional “Arda” dance by boys and included a film charting Qatar’s sporting journey.
However, the highlight of the event was a special theatrical performance that detailed Qatar’s progress to modernity from the times when fishing and pearl diving were the primary source of livelihood of the people.
The show featured an old man who regales his granddaughters with stories of men at sea while the womenfolk waited at home for their return anxiously, praying for their success.
He explains to them the importance of hard work and the crucial role the sea play in their lives, evoking admiration and applause from the packed audience.
The next four days are expected to thrill fans further, with some super fit men and women seeking to become the first world champions on Qatari soil.