Olympic torch relay not being cancelled: Kalmadi

April 9th, 2008 - 3:48 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) The Delhi leg of the Beijing Olympics torch relay will go ahead April 17 as scheduled and there is no change in any part of the plan, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi reiterated Wednesday. As speculation mounted over the fate of the torch relay in the Indian capital with some participants backing off and Tibetans from all over the country beginning to gather in the capital to prepare for protests, Kalmadi said: “There is no talk of the torch (relay) being cancelled.”

Kalmadi, now in Beijing to attend meetings of the Association of the National Olympic Committees (ANOCA), told IANS over telephone: “In fact, we are discussing how the torch could be carried in a proper and befitting manner so that it looks wonderful.”

Amid rumours of Congress party general secretary Rahul Gandhi dropping out as a runner in the torch relay leg here because of security concerns, Kalmadi - a leader of the same party - refused to say if the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family had been invited in the first place.

All Kalmadi would say was: “We have invited young MPs to join the relay.”

But the IOA chief did reveal the names of sportspersons scheduled to take part in the torch relay through its three-kilometre route down Rajpath in the heart of New Delhi.

“We have invited 50 people from all walks of life, but a majority of them are from sports,” Kalmadi said. “Among those who will carry the torch are Milkha Singh and P.T. Usha as well as Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.”

Former tennis star and high-profile police officer Kiran Bedi Wednesday announced she would not take part in the relay.

With two legs of the torch relay disrupted in London and Paris by Tibetan activists protesting the actions of the Chinese government in Tibet, police here have intensified security arrangements for the Delhi leg Wednesday.

Police officials also announced a ban on the entry of all Tibetans to the capital Wednesday although it was not clear how the ban would be enforced. Over 100,000 Tibetan refugees live in India, many of them in Delhi.

IOA officials are reportedly discussing with the police the option of curtailing the torch relay route further. Kalmadi said: “The length of the relay is under discussion.”

After pro-Tibet protesters disrupted the torch’s global journey in Paris Monday - and in London earlier - doubts have been raised about the cancellation of the run ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games Aug 8-24.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge announced a review of the entire exercise in Beijing. “This is something that obviously has to be discussed by the executive board,” he was reported as saying.

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