Tight security as Olympic torch begins India runApril 17th, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) Sportspersons past and present, film stars and other celebrities hastily passed the Beijing Olympic flame from one to another Thursday as the tightly orchestrated India run of the torch began under a cloud of protests from Tibetans elsewhere in the city. The India Gate lawns were mostly empty, except for officials, sponsors, swarming security personnel and the Olympic Holy Flame Protection Group that formed the inner circle protecting the flame.
India’s woman weightlifter Kunjum Rani Devi kicked off the relay of the Olympic flame, which arrived here late Wednesday under a thick security blanket and was kept overnight at the Le Meridien Hotel.
Amongst the others who carried the flame from Raisina Hill, with the presidential palace in the background, to the India Gate monument were former track queen P.T. Usha, hockey stars Aslam Sher Khan, Zafar Iqbad and Dhanraj Pillai, film star Saif Ali Khan and cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi.
The route of the run has been cut short to 2.3 km due to security concerns, particularly after the relay was disrupted in London and Paris. About 70 prominent personalities have been chosen to carry the torch the short distance.
About 50 Tibetan protesters were rounded up while trying to breach the cordon at various places around the India Gate area, which saw three-tier security akin to Republic Day.
At Le Meridien Hotel, nine Tibetans including a monk tried entering the premises but were swiftly whisked away by police