Peaceful Olympic torch relay in Pakistan amid fanfare

April 16th, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, April 16 (IANS) The Olympic torch relay ceremony took place in Pakistan Wednesday with great fanfare amid tight security as President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani underlined the special ties the country has with China. “This (relay) has brought the affection and love for us from China and we receive it with the same love for the Chinese,” Musharraf, who was the chief guest on the occasion, announced amid cheering by an over 30,000-strong crowd that was allowed to enter the Sports Complex here after strict security checks.

This is the first time ever that the Olympics torch relay came to Pakistan and “this is perhaps due to all-weather ties between the two countries”, said Musharraf, who recently concluded a six-day visit to China where a number agreements were signed between the countries in defence and trade cooperation.

“China as the host of the 29th Olympic Games has again demonstrated its friendship by selecting Islamabad as one of the only 22 cities in the world for the relay.”

Musharraf said the torch journey was the “journey of harmony for the whole world”.

The ceremony started with the national anthems of Pakistan and China. Wearing colourful dresses, various groups presented folk dances. The celebrations were concluded with a fireworks show late Wednesday evening.

From Islamabad the torch was taken to New Delhi where the relay ceremonies will take place Thursday.

Musharraf and Gillani handed over the torch to former hockey star Samiullah Khan, who covered around 200 metres before handing it over to other participants of the Olympic Games.

After passing from 65 runners, the torch was finally carried by squash legend Jahangir Khan who handed it over to Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohul.

Luo said this torch connects the people of two countries and “people of China cannot ignore their Pakistani friends in any celebrations… this is the reason that we selected Pakistan.”

Gillani said: “It is an historic occasion and arrival of the relay here means that the people of China and the organizers of the Olympic Games have a special place and status for Pakistan.”

“Let’s hope such activities will also bring peace in the world,” he said while thanking the organizers for including Pakistan for the relay.

In the presence of Musharraf who dictated the country for eight years, Gillani said now the country has a democratic government and “we will encourage young people to fully participate in the games… Now they will be given opportunity in sports”.

Pakistan that held the world titles in cricket, squash, hockey and snooker has suffered a serious slide in sporting achievement of late.

There is not much hope in the country for winning any title in the Beijing games as Pakistan’s last Olympics medal came in Los Angeles in 1984 when the hockey team struck gold.

Jahangir, who won a world-record 10 British Open titles between 1982 and 1991, said the Olympic torch should serve as an inspiration to Pakistani sportsmen. He said Pakistan must take a lead from neighbouring China.

Jahangir, who will attend the Beijing Olympics as president of the World Squash Federation, said he would lobby for the game’s inclusion in the summer games.

Hassan Sardar, the star of Pakistan hockey in the 1980s, said his feelings for the relay were the same as were his sentiments when he steered Pakistan to a gold medal victory at the Olympics in 1984.

“The fact that China is perhaps Pakistan’s most trusted friend gives an extra quality of happiness and pride to my feelings,” Hassan said.

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