Commonwealth Games closing ceremony includes a game of tag – and lots of security

The closing ceremony of the 19th Commonwealth Games began Thursday in spectacular fashion at the Indian capital's Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.

By , Correspondent

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    Lights are projected skywards over an aerostat as artists perform during the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India, Thursday.
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Just as New Delhi was starting to get used to the rhythm of life as host of the Commonwealth Games, the party has wound down.

The closing ceremony of the 19th Commonwealth Games began Thursday in spectacular fashion at the Indian capital's Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.

Commemorations started with a celebration of traditional Indian sports such as kabbadi, which is essentially an evolved version of tag.

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Spectators, however, could be forgiven for confusing such sports with combat training, as thousands of knife- and spear-wielding warrior-dancers and fire-twirlers moved around the grounds.

And, much like the opening ceremonies, an estimated crowd of 60,000 people was watching it all from the stands.

The creative director of the spectacle was filmmaker Bharatbala, who planned the ceremonies for 18 months. The combined cost of the opening and closing ceremonies was said to be in the region of $67 million. Some 6,000 performers took part.

Security, as expected, was extremely tight, not just at the stadium but across Delhi. In fact, Thursday was a public holiday in the city, with most markets, shops, offices, schools, and bars and restaurants closed. Authorities were keen to avoid tempting fate by allowing gathering places for crowds. Road traffic in central New Delhi was restricted.

There were about 7,500 security personnel at the stadium, while snipers, commandos, and specially trained paramilitaries were in place.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the guest of honor at the closing ceremony – something that has raised the hackles of many Tamils. More than 100 people were arrested Thursday in the southern state of Tamil Nadu after staging a protest against Rajapaksa's presence. They said that India should take a firmer stance against the Sri Lankan government over alleged human rights violations against the island nation's Tamil population during the long-running civil war.

But Tamil Nadu is far from New Delhi, where residents are now either heaving a sigh of relief that normal life can resume, or lamenting the end of the biggest – and most chaotic – party the city has ever known.

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