DOHA, Qata, 10 October 2006r — The skies of Doha lit up with fireworks Sunday night, as Qatar’s Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al-Thani lit the Torch of the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 at a colorful and spectacular ceremony at the Doha Golf Club.
Sheikh Tamim is the chairman of the Qatar National Olympic Committee and of the Higher Organizing Committee of the 15th Asian Games.
Sheikh Jassem ibn Hamad Al-Thani, personal representative of the Emir, Games torch relay Ambassador Sheikh Joaan ibn Hamad Al-Thani and ministers, diplomats, invitees and local and Asian journalists from the print and electronic media were among those present.
Two documentary films highlighting the interaction of cultures and civilizations among nations were screened at the ceremony. The armed forces musical unit and the boys from Choir of the Academy of Leadership welcomed the heir apparent.
Yusuf Seif on behalf of the organizers of the torch relay flame lighting ceremony in his welcome address said the flame would signify the “hospitality” of Qatar during the Games scheduled from Dec. 1 to 15 and indicated that the flame represented the Arab culture from the ancient past and the present. “When it comes to hospitality and generosity, Qatar has always been in the lead. And here it ís today, continuing the procession of the fathers and forefathers,” he said. Arabs used to light a fire as a beacon for travelers and wanderers, an invitation for them to approach and be generously welcomed. Today, Qatar is lighting many fires in all directions. Hence, we’ve decided to give the Doha 2006 Torch Relay, the Flame of Hospitality slogan,” he said.
Sheikh Tamim then proceeded to the podium and pressed the ignition button that unleashed an array of colorful fireworks. Cable-led projectiles set alight the torch in the center-stage.
The Asiad torch will make stopovers in 15 different countries, covering a distance of 55,000 kilometers in 55 days. It will be the longest ever Asian Games torch relay procession. The flame departed Doha yesterday for New Delhi, the venue of the first Asian Games in 1951, on the Amiri (royal) Airbus 310. It will be housed in a special safety lantern and married with the Eternal Asian Games Flame at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in the Indian capital on Oct. 11.
The torch will next make stops in, Korea, the Philippines, Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Iran, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, thus covering a total population of more than 2.9 billion - almost a third of the global population. It will be received by heads of state, international athletes and dignitaries at various destinations. More than 3,500 torch-bearers will carry the flame on 19 Amiri (royal) flights before it enters the state-of-the-art Khalifa Stadium, the venue for the Games’ opening ceremony on Dec. 1 and closing ceremony on Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, Q-Post has launched two stamps as part of the country’s build up for the Asian Games. Q-Post Chairman and Chief Executive Ali Mohamed Al-Ali unveiled two sets of stamps to commemorate the torch relay and the participation of volunteers in the Games. He also released first day cards, terming the Asian Games as the biggest sporting spectacle the region is hosting.
The Q-Post had also brought out some silver and bronze coins to be sold as souvenirs of the Asian Games. The coins are very limited in numbers and each of them has an image of one of the sport disciplines to be held as part of the Games. Qatar Airways, the country’s national carrier and the official airline of the 15th Asian Games, has embarked on a global media campaign to promote the biggest ever sporting event. Thousands of spectators from around the world are expected to arrive in Qatar to enjoy two weeks of sporting excellence. Doha’s various sporting venues are getting ready to stage the games. Khalifa Stadium will be one of the main venues for many track and field events during the games.