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14 September 2003, 08:20 am
Opening Ceremony
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Andalucian Horses

2003 ISAF World Championship
Bay of Cadiz

Put together 14,000 people, a bull ring, Spanish hospitality and joie de vivre and what do you get? A memorable and impressive Opening Ceremony to be sure - combined with a mix of the Macarena and a Mexican wave to name a few highlights.
Held in one of the biggest Bull Rings in Spain, the Opening Ceremony for the 2003 ISAF World Championship heralded the inaugural event for all Olympic Classes. Imagine the atmosphere, 14,000 people, a massive bull ring, tiered stalls and the crowd in applause - amazing.

Broadcast live, the opening sequence of parachutists flying into the Bull Ring carrying the Spanish Flag was slightly carried off track by the winds. Trying to land in an arena is tricky at the best of times, and with the wind having decreased it seemed all would be fine. But luck would have it that the wind came up as the parachutists were landing, and hence only one managed to land on the mark. However, this slight mishap did nothing to mar the celebration of the evening.

The Parade of flags got underway, led by Germany. With the countries ordered by the Spanish spelling of the country names, Germany or "Allemagne" experienced one of the few times they will lead a country parade. Bringing up the rear was the host nation, Spain, who received a rapturous ovation, followed by the regional flags and finally the ISAF flag.

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After the welcome speeches, it was the role of ISAF President Paul Henderson to officially declare the Championship open. Approximately halfway into his speech, there was a flutter of activity in one of the upper stalls behind the stage, which slowly worked its way around the bullring. The Mexican Wave had started! Within a few seconds the entire bull ring was in a wave, and there was nothing Paul could do but wait! As he commented, "I thought I had seen it all after the thunderstorms in Savannah," [referring to the thunderstorm and downpour that interrupted the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Regatta in Savannah, USA]. After a minute or so, as the wave slowly wound down, Paul thanked the crowd for their warm welcome before concluding his speech:

"Today is a very proud day for ISAF to see its dream of creating a global event, attracting the world's top sailors achieved. With more than 1000 boats and over 1500 athletes, Olympic Qualification opportunities and World Championship titles, the 2003 ISAF World Championship ranks as the most significant event ever held in our sport.

All the sailors who are at this Championship will also be marking an important step in their sailing careers. Whilst many of you here are representing your nations on a third, fourth or even fifth Olympic campaign, others are experiencing a World Championship event for the first time, and possibly in the early days of your sailing careers.

To be known in the future as the World Cup of Sailing, this event is firmly set on the international calendar and will bring together the world's best every four years to determine World Champions and to provide an opportunity for Olympic qualification under the best possible conditions.

It has been a long journey from the original event conception back in the mid-1990's through to today, almost 10 years. This event has taken years of hard work, dedication and commitment to make it happen.

Deporte Andaluz, Mundo Vela, Real Federacion Espanola de Vela and their team have worked countless hours to bring this event to fruition. You certainly took on a major task of hosting and organising this inaugural World Championship and have risen magnificently to the occasion. I congratulate all of you for getting us here today and I look forward to the racing.

Thank you to all the Central and Regional Governments for their support as well as the many sponsors.

To the sailors. To be competing at this pinnacle ISAF World Championship, you are all champions in our sport. By the conclusion of this Championship on 24 September, there will be eleven new World Champions crowned.

Whilst contesting the World Championship titles, remember that it takes more than crossing the finishing line to make a champion. A champion is more than a winner. A champion is someone who respects the rules, rejects doping and competes in the spirit of fair play.

Sailors of the World, you are all now here in Cadiz, ready to contest some of the sport's ultimate titles.

The waters of Cadiz are renowned for the month of September, so let fair winds blow and may you all achieve your dreams.

Thank you Cadiz. Thank you Spain. Thank you Sailors of the World.

It is now my very great pleasure to declare the 2003 ISAF World Championship open."

On returning to his seat, Paul was advised by a Spanish member of the Organising Committee that the wave is a "traditional Spanish joke", but as Paul responded, "I waited them out." surely analogous to the bull and the matador!!

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The Opening Ceremony continued with the arrival of Marino, the official Championship mascot, and the presentation of the Official Championship song.

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The traditional Andalucian horses then took centre stage with an impressive display of horsemanship and elegance as the horses performed particularly difficult sequences and steps.

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The evening then moved back to the stage with the "Macarena" performed by Los del Rio. With the crowd on their feet and the volunteers rushing into the centre of the bull ring, the whole arena was in full swing.

This performance was then followed by the stars of Spain's equivalent of the reality television programme "Pop Idols", Los Canos and Carlos Laud.

An excellent start to what will be an excellent 2003 ISAF World Championship.

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