‘Olympic torch relay lacked sporting touch’

April 18th, 2008 - 12:13 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) Star sportspersons who participated in the Beijing Olympic Flame relay in the capital Thursday felt that the sporting touch was missing as the stifling security measures prevented common citizens from savouring the occasion. India’s leading sportspersons and a host of celebrities took part in the torch relay that lasted for just about 30 minutes to cover a distance of 2.3 km. There were only a handful of schoolchildren, around 50 Chinese, and some cheerleaders of the sponsors to witness the event in the heart of New Delhi.

Even the large media contingent was kept at a safe distance and had to go through frisking at three places before being allowed into the press enclosure.

“There should have been more children running along with the torch. That would have been great to watch and children would have loved it. The security was also an important part and I am happy that the ceremony passed off without any untoward incident,” former hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay said.

Long jumper Anju Bobby George agreed. “The security was very heavy and so the common people could not watch the relay. It got affected a bit that way, but then the security was around because of a reason. Safety of the flame was important,” she said.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) secretary general Randhir Singh said: “It was unfortunate that people could not be allowed inside but I am sure they must have watched it on television.”

Estranged tennis partners Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi carried the flame hand in hand at the historic India Gate amid huge applause.

“They (Leander and Mahesh) are going to play together in the Olympics for the country, and we brought them together here,” IOA president Suresh Kalmadi said.

“The torch travelled to India after going around the whole world. The IOA was determined to keep up the spirit of the Olympics. We are happy that the relay was successful,” Kalmadi said.

Milkha Singh, P.T. Usha, Nandi Singh, Madhumita Bisht, Bhadur Singh, Shiny Wilson, Karnam Malleswari were among the 70 bearers who carried the torch.

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