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Ceremony launches World Cup
The World Cup has got under way in Cape Town with a spectacular opening ceremony.

Spectators at the opening ceremony
World Cup opening ceremony

The two-hour ceremony, which cost organisers more than 2m, included 4,000 performers at Newlands Cricket Ground and ended in a flurry of fireworks.

South African premier Thabo Mbeki officially launched the tournament in the midst of the showcase.

He said: "We are conscious that this is the biggest ever World Cup and we believe we can and will make it the best ever.

"I am honoured to declare the World Cup officially open. Let the games begin."

Among the other prominent figures there were the Prince of Wales, International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed and ICC president Malcolm Gray.

Gray said: "This magnificent occasion launches the biggest event in the history of cricket."

The night's entertainment opened with a safari theme, one of seven different scenes.

Other themes, including unity, township, ocean and innovation, were all performed by hundreds of South Africa's leading singers, musicians and dancers to epitomise the diversity of the country.

Some of South Africa's leading sportsmen, among them Leeds footballer Lucas Radebe, former rugby player Naas Botha and tennis player Amanda Coetzer, were paraded around the ground.

They were followed by the teams playing in the tournament, who were led around the stadium.

The glitz and glamour of the launch was a far cry from the low-key opening the 1999 World Cup saw at Lord's, an event Wisden described as "pathetic".

The show had a predominantly local theme, with the home town Cape Minstrels to the fore among a host of dancers, gymnasts, bands and choirs incorporating all ages from eight to 80.

Up to 1.4 billion people are expected to have watched the spectacle worldwide.

The first game of the tournament, between the hosts South Africa and the West Indies, begins at 1230 GMT on Sunday.

South African president Thabo Mbeki
"We believe we can make it the best World Cup ever"

ICC president Malcolm Gray
"The biggest event in the history of cricket"

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