The Opening Ceremony on 23 July in Dubai marked the official start of the 2016 Jubilee Games. The 10 000-strong audience erupted in ovation over and over again, as thousands more around the world streamed it live at TheIsmaili.org.
If the event unfolded flawlessly, it was because of the huge amount of time and effort that was put into its choreography.
Jenny Datoo, organiser of both the opening and closing ceremonies, says her core team of 12 began the planning process back in July 2015. She guesses that they — together with another 28 who make up the full team of 40 volunteers — each put in at least 20 hours per week on the project over the past four to five months.
That doesn’t include the 40 performers who rehearsed non-stop, and have been working on their crafts for years.
“To me, the show was about highlighting excellence in the Jamat,” says Datoo, referring to the depth of Ismaili talent unearthed through her team’s international selection process.
Each performer — from Pakistan’s shadow dancers, to the break dancers from Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Tajik dance crew — went through an online audition and interview process.
“The most fun part was the moment you looked out and saw this was in fact bigger than you or me,” says Datoo. She explains how she and each of her team members were blown away when they saw the sheer size of the opening ceremony hall and the number of seats.
The audience reviews were glowing.
"The Games have just begun and everyone present can feel the magic, the celebration and the enthusiasm of being one Jamat," said spectator Munavar Jafferali who came from the United Kingdom.
Parveen Sayani from the United Arab Emirates felt pride as she watched. "The fact that the audience was part of the show made the ceremony an experience of great joy and togetherness,” she said.
“Watching Prince Rahim up close was a dream come true,” said Ayaz Virani, an athlete from Australia. “The opening ceremony was spectacular.”
“It was bigger than what anyone could have imagined,” says Datoo, summing up on behalf of the entire organising team. “Not the show, but the experience.”