<
>

Coast is clear: India's chance to strike gold in Commonwealth Games

All that glitters is gold: The Games couldn't have picked a more scenic location Getty Images

You can usually tell the debutants from the old-timers at Games ceremonies. The former, willing to stay back a little longer, can often be seen posing for near-perfect selfies. The veterans, those familiar with the drill, are eager to catch up on precious sleep.'

On Monday, India, Jamaica, British Virgin Islands as well as Turks and Caicos Islands were officially welcomed with the hoisting of their respective flags and treated to aboriginal performances at the Games Village. Each country was also handed aboriginal shields believed to have powers of protection, as mementos. India may have secretly wished the gift came two days ago.

In the absence of badminton stars, who arrived only late on Monday evening, the stage belonged to track and field athletes, members of the women's hockey team, boxers, gymnasts, wheelchair-bound para-athletes and young shooters. Overlooking the athlete residences, the soggy patch of field at the Games Village soon turned into a pool of blue. The other three contingents picked a corner each to recede into. Five-time world champion boxer Mary Kom held up her fists in a mock pose for shutterbugs while debutant Neeraj Chopra sheepishly admitted to have already indulged in his share of fun for the day with a trip to the beach.

It's still two days to go for the Games and athletes are yet to slip into the taut, edgy and nervous competition mode. It's hard to blame them, as the location of the Games couldn't have been more scenic.

With its stunning beaches, waterways, canals and picturesque drives, Gold Coast looks straight out of a postcard. Plush residences interspersed with holiday homes and the skyline pockmarked with high-rises, boasting of some of the tallest towers in the world, the city is located to the south of Brisbane and is barely a third of its size.

Whether lugging jet skis behind their SUVs or skateboarding down roads, locals live life outdoors. Often, you'd run into an Indian face and a familiar accent in cab drivers, security personnel or tech support teams. One of them even innocently queries if Aparna Popat (who retired in 2006) would be playing at this Games.

For some whose limbs are uncertain of making the 2020 Olympics trip, this Games is about a final flourish. One last big medal to wind down the career and saunter out. For others it's about a first breakthrough at a major competition. For both, the champion and the successor, the 18 and 35-year-olds, a medal here can be life altering: in wanting to push harder or step away. And on Monday, swaying to the drumbeats and bathed in white light, they came together in a fused, singular hope.