IOA brings Paes-Bhupathi together for Olympic torch relay

April 17th, 2008 - 10:33 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) It was a clever move by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Thursday to bring the feuding Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi together to carry the Olympic torch and light the cauldron at India Gate. The symbolism was not lost on the people gathered at the India Gate lawns as there were doubts over the two multiple Grand Slam winners joining forces at the Beijing Olympic Games following differences over more than one issue.

After Thursday evening’s function, hopes were rekindled that the duo would cast their differences aside and focus on winning a medal at the Games.

The IOA Thursday played a big part in getting the two to join the torch relay in the capital, but kept the news of the duo running the final stretch together and lighting the cauldron a closely guarded secret.

“I told them (Paes and Bhupathi) that you have to be together and light the flame and they readily agreed. I deliberately kept their names as the last runners,” IOA president Suresh Kalmadi told IANS.

“It was done in a bid to bring them closer and help in forging an understanding between them before the Olympics. They too have responded admirably and they have a great chance of winning a medal,” he added.

When contacted Bhupathi said it was an honour for him to carry the Torch and be the last person to light the flame along with Paes.

“It is a privilege for any sportsperson. I have no words to express my feelings. I am honoured to be part of the relay. Truly speaking, it gave me some goose bumps when I lit the flame along with Paes,” Bhupathi told IANS.

All India Tennis Association (AITA) secretary general Anil Khanna termed IOA’s initiative to reunite Paes and Bhupathi as a remarkable gesture.

“It was an excellent gesture on IOA’s part. Both Paes and Bhupathi are very experienced and respected in the Indian sports fraternity and I am sure they can win us a medal in Beijing,” said Khanna.

Asked whether AITA had any role in bringing them together for the relay ceremony, he said: “It was totally IOA’s initiative. AITA has no role to play.

“However, I was aware about it because Mr. Kalmadi had already told me about his intentions of bring them together during the Torch relay.”

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