Captains from 14 competing nations were paraded around the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka earlier as the Cricket World Cup got underway in Bangladesh.
As they were carried around the arena in colourfully draped rickshaws, home skipper Shakib Al Hasan received a particularly rousing welcome ahead of the first game tomorrow.
Indian singer Sonu Nigam, Bangladesh-based Runa Laila and Canadian Bryan Adams also performed.
Some 49 games will be spread over the coming weeks, with England, Australia and joint hosts, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India all among the favourites to take the title.
ICC president Sharad Pawar, addressing 21,000 spectators, said: “Our flagship event provides the stage on which players have the rare opportunity to create legend and to write their own chapter in the history of this great sport.
“The greatest cricketers in the world will grace this event and I am sure that their ability, whether with bat or ball, will provide excitement and enjoyment for all cricket lovers.”
Captains gather ahead of the opening ceremony. Back row, left to right: Zimbabwe’s Elton Chigumbura, New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori, Pakistan Shahid Afridi, India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni, South Africa’s Graeme Smith, England’s Andrew Strauss, West Indies Darren Sammy.
Front row, left to right: Canada’s Ashish Bagai, Netherlands’ Peter Borren, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, Australia’s Ricky Ponting, Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan, Kenya’s Jimmy Kamande and Ireland’s William Porterfield.
Dhaka has been spruced up for the World Cup as it seeks to take advantage of a prime opportunity to rebrand a country often known only for devastating floods and cyclones.
The impoverished South Asian nation has spent more than $100 million to tidy up for the tournament it co-hosts with India and Sri Lanka, looking at the showpiece as the biggest event since independence in 1971.
Beggars have been paid to stay off roads, hawkers have been evicted from overcrowded pavements and buildings given a new coat of paint.
Efforts have even been made to reduce the infamous traffic jams in the bustling capital.
Protected by a sheet of bullet-proof glass, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina watched as home skipper Shakib Al Hasan received a rapturous welcome from the packed arena as he arrived at the rear of the unusual parade.
“I hope that the games will be memorable and exciting,” he said.
“It gives me great pleasure to declare the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup open.”