Christchurch, New Zealand (BBN)-The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 got off with a bang in Christchurch tonight as a colourful crowd in the tens of thousands packed into North Hagley Park to witness a spectacular opening ceremony.
A two-hour extravaganza that featured 1000 performers, including past and present Black Caps stars, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, and some of New Zealand’s top musical acts, concluded with a massive fireworks display, reports nzherald.co.nz.
The high-budget, free show, which organisers the International Cricket Council (ICC) claim was broadcast live to 2.5 billion people across more than 220 countries, and airing in the early afternoon in the cricket superpower of India, opened the sport’s showpiece tournament in style.
There was a carnival atmosphere throughout the evening that began earlier with four giant games of backyard cricket, played by 80 schoolchildren.
Huge crowds cheered on the white-clad kids on the parched North Hagley grass, with international food and music from all 14 nations competing at the tournament.
The main event began at 8.30pm under clear skies with traditional Sri Lanka dancing, followed by Scottish bagpipes and Bollywood and Irish dancing.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the city had been “waiting for a very long time” to return to the global stage after the disappointment of missing out on the Rugby World Cup in 2011 after the city’s devastating earthquakes.
She welcomed the world to “our backyard” because in New Zealand “we play our cricket in our backyards as families”.
Kiwi music stars Ginny Blackmore, Sol3 Mio, Hayley Westenra, the New Zealand Army Band and Shapeshifter wowed the dancing crowds in between cultural performances, including hakas, and guest appearances by cricketing legends such as Sir Richard Hadlee, Stephen Fleming, and current Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum.
The Black Caps squad graced the stage in smart blazers and McCullum, who earlier posed for photos with Prime Minister John Key in the VIP area, got a big cheer when he took the microphone.
McCullum said his team couldn’t wait for the tournament to finally begin on Saturday and believed they wouldn’t be overawed by the occasion.
A highlight was a segment featuring a young boy on stage dreaming of becoming a great cricketer and recruiting some sporting and cultural legends, including Sir Peter Jackson, McCaw, Sri Lankan bowler Lasith Malinga, Black Caps seamer Tim Southee, Silver Fern Maria Tutaia, and fashion designer Trelise Cooper.
It ended with the boy hitting a ball that was caught by Mr Key shown on the big screens standing at the Beehive.
The huge crowd loved the slick and vibrant opening ceremony.
Jeremy Matthews came dressed in full whites, cricket pads, gloves, and painted-on handlebar moustache.
“It’s been 30 years since I had cricket pads on, but this is a great occasion for the city and I thought I would get right into the spirit of things,” the 50-year-old said.
“This event really puts Christchurch on the world map – probably even more than the earthquakes did.”