His Highness the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Chairman of the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee (DAGOC) Board of Directors was in attendance to ignite the "Flame of Hospitality", as part of a glittering ceremony.

 

Sheikh Tamim, also President of Qatar National Olympic Committee (QNOC), pressed a button which set off an array of fiery blasts and a colourful display of fireworks, culminating with the ignition of a flaming cauldron.

 

"Arabs used to light a fire as a beacon for travelers and wanderers, an invitation for them to approach and be generously welcomed," said Master of Ceremonies Yusuf Seif.

 

"Today, Qatar is lighting many fires in all directions, hence, we have decided to give the Doha 2006 Torch Relay, the slogan 'The Flame of Hospitality'."

 

More than 3,000 torchbearers will carry the flame across Asia, visiting all the countries that have previously hosted the Asian Games, along with countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

 

The first stop for the flame, which will travel on the Amiri Jet between cities, is New Delhi, India where the Eternal Asian Games Flame burns at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

 

The Doha 2006 Asian Games Torch Relay, which will be the longest in Asian Games history, will then visit countries including Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Iran, Oman and Kuwait.

 

Setting the standard

 

Hussain al-Musallam, Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia, was pleased with the night's proceedings, and the progress made in Doha in preparation for the Games in December.

 

The Doha 2006 torch is in the
shape of an Arabian Oryx horn 

"It was a very nice ceremony, and I would like to congratulate the organising committee for this excellent event," said Mr al-Musallam.

 

"It has really made the Olympic Council of Asia proud to have the games coming to Doha. Tonight's ceremony has set a great standard for the rest of the Games.

 

"I would like to say from the Olympic Council of Asia family, we are really positive that the Games in Doha will be a great success," al-Musallam added.

 

"We have a positive attitude with the Games coming to this region for the first time, and different types of sports such as wushu and kabaddi will give the Games added interest as we don't just have Olympic sports, but sports that are cultural to Asia."

 

Ticket sales progressing well

 

Abdulla Khalid Al Qahtani, Director General of DAGOC, was confident that attendances would be high at the Games, especially on days when medals are on offer.

 

"There are more then 1.4 million tickets available.  If we can reach 70 per cent of capacity at the semi-final and final stages of competition then I think it would be a great achievement, not just for Doha, but for the Asian Games in general," said Mr Al Qahtani.

 

"The response to ticket sales has been very encouraging.  In this region, people are not accustomed to the culture of buying tickets three months before events," he added.

 

The cauldron is alight with Doha's
'Flame of Hospitality'

When asked what measures were being taken to stop the selling of tickets on the black market – especially for the opening ceremony, Mr al-Musallam assured reporters that only certified people could sell Games tickets and that there would not be an issue with ticket scalping.

 

Mr Al Qahtani said that the multi-sport tickets for venues such as ASPIRE – Qatar's Academy of Sport, have been the hottest tickets in town so far.

 

"The ASPIRE venue-based ticket is selling very well, in fact as we speak, it is selling better than the opening ceremony," said the head of DAGOC.

 

"This ticket allows spectators to see sports such as wushu, badminton, kabaddi, gymnastics, boxing, wrestling and track cycling.

 

"Also we have had good sales for the bodybuilding and weightlifting, and I can guarantee those events will be sold-out. The opening and closing ceremonies are also selling well," Al Qahtani added.

 

The Doha 2006 Torch Relay will finish in Khalifa Stadium, Doha, at the Opening Ceremony of the 15th Asian Games on December 1.