Indian torchbearers gear up to carry Olympic flame

April 16th, 2008 - 6:17 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) Torch bearers of the Beijing Olympic Flame for the Indian leg Wednesday put behind controversies and protests that has shrouded the event and vowed to run for the spirit of the games. Shooters Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Abhinav Bindra said Olympic movement is for peace and should not be mixed with the China’s policy towards Tibet.

Tibetan protests have marred the torch relay in London and Paris. The torch is scheduled to land here from Islamabad late Wednesday night, amid tight security.

“Sports should not be mixed with politics. Olympics movement is for peace and should remain like that. It is a moment of pride for me and I am looking forward to carry the torch tomorrow (Thursday),” Sandhu said.

India’s football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has refused to carry the torch to show his solidarity for the Tibetan cause while Sachin Tendulkar who was earlier scheduled to carry the flame pulled out Wednesday citing his injury.

“I cannot say anything about others but it is an honour for any sportsperson to carry the flame and nobody would like to miss it,” said Sandhu, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award winner.

Bindra said for him it was a lifetime opportunity and a dream come true.

“The protests are not an issue to me. It is an individual’s discretion and should be taken like that. As far as I am concerned, it is a dream come true. The Olympic spirit inspires me to do well in my field.”

Sarod player Ayan Ali Bangash, who is also part of the Samsung torchbearers, said he does not have any problem with the Tibetan protests going around.

“Everybody has the right to express their feelings. Being a democratic nation people have the right to express through protests and demonstration.”

Asked about Sports Minister M.S. Gill saying that politicians and celebrities should not be invited for the torch relay and sportspersons alone should be the torchbearers, Ayan said: “Nobody has the right to say this because whether it is sports or any other field, hard work and dedication is required for success in life. The participation is for celebrating the human spirit and Olympic ideals.”

Bindra too felt it was a needless controversy.

“The International Olympic Association guideline says that people from any walk of life can carry the flames and nobody should have a problem with it. As long the torchbearers are recognised individuals and achievers in their respective field I see no reason why they should not be a part of it.”

Para-Olympic bronze medallist in power lifting Rajinder Singh Rahelu said “politics and sports are two different things and it is better if they are kept apart”.

Rahelu will carry the torch on his wheelchair.

Athlete P.T Usha and actor Sagarika Ghatge will also run in the relay and will represent Samsung, which is an Olympic partner in wireless communications equipment since 1997.

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