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18 Feb 2011

The 10th Cricket World Cup has been launched following a $30m (£18.6m) opening ceremony in Bangladesh.

All 14 captains were paraded in rickshaws around the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka as 3,500 performers demonstrated local cultures.

Indian singer Sonu Nigam, Bangladesh-based Runa Laila and Canadian Bryan Adams provided further entertainment.

The more modern stadium in Mirpur hosts Saturday's tournament opener, in which Bangladesh host favourites India.

The 49-match, six-week tournament is spread across cricket-crazy south Asia, with Sri Lanka and India also hosting matches. Of the original four host nations, Pakistan was forced to withdraw over security fears.

A number of commentators felt the highlight of the two-hour spectacle was an aerial cricket match, where high-flying acrobats hit and chased a laser-beamed ball against a vertical backdrop of a pitch.

Speaking four years after a poorly received World Cup in the Caribbean, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina said: "I hope that the games will be memorable and exciting."

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."

The often chaotic roads in Dhaka witnessed relatively light traffic on Thursday with the government declaring a half-day public holiday so its people could return home in good time to view the opening ceremony on television.

It is the first time the country, which is slowly making a mark in world one-day cricket if not the five-day Test version, has helped stage the showpiece event which features eight matches in Bangladesh, 12 in Sri Lanka and 29 in India, including the 2 April final, in Mumbai.

Bangladesh, whose first six matches will be in Mirpur and Chittagong, are enjoying their moment in the sporting spotlight.

National board president Mostafa Kamal said: "We will be able to improve our image if we can successfully hold the opening ceremony and host the World Cup matches slated for us."

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