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Cricket World Cup Opens in Cape Town - 2003-02-09

The 2003 Cricket World Cup has officially opened in Cape Town, South Africa. The opening ceremony welcomed players from the 14 participating nations and showcased the host nation, South Africa.

The official anthem of the 2003 Cricket World Cup was just one of the musical treats for the 25,000 spectators who came to the Newlands Cricket Stadium in Cape Town for the opening ceremony.

They were also treated performances by some of South Africa's musical legends, including Johnny Clegg and legendary jazz trumpeter Hugh Maskela.

Roughly 5,000 people performed in the spectacle of dance and song, celebrating South Africa's diverse cultures and wildlife. The audience saw everything from dancing penguins and zebras, to a giant inflatable octopus, to fabric re-creations of township taxis and commuter trains.

The crowd roared its approval when South African President Thabo Mbeki declared the six-week-long tournament officially open.

"Let us all rejoice in the fact that regardless of who wins the cup, we will all be victors," he said. "I am now honored to declare this eighth ICC cricket world cup tournament officially open. Let the games begin!"

Not only was the opening ceremony the most extravagant ever staged for a Cricket World Cup, the tournament itself will be the biggest ever held, and the largest sporting event Africa has ever hosted. Fourteen teams are competing from five continents. More than 70,000 tickets have been sold to individual matches, and more than one billion people are expected to watch the games on television worldwide.

International Cricket Council President Malcolm Gray thanked the people of South Africa for hosting the World Cup, and said he thinks it will be a great competition.

"May all the players have their share of good fortune, and may those of us too old, too young or too untalented to play be treated to a feast of cricket," he said. "May our world cup runneth over!"

The controversy over England's scheduled match in Zimbabwe was hanging over the opening ceremony, with the English cricket board not due to make a decision about whether to play until the next day. But the players and spectators alike tried to put that issue aside for a few hours to celebrate the beginning of the Cricket World Cup.