Friday, June 25, 2010

The Wait is Over Queens Baton to enter India today

Attari, around 30km from the Sikh holy city, Amritsar, witnessed hectic activity on Thursday. Preparations were on in full swing to welcome the Queen’s Baton for the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi that will enter Punjab from Pakistan on Friday morning.

As a prelude to the big event, Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi and his Pakistani counterpart Sayed Arif Hassan discussed last-minute arrangements for over half-an-hour at ground zero. They also held detailed discussions on synchronization of the ceremony and gave on-the-spot instructions to event managers.

Ignoring the scorching heat, Kalmadi, who had come prepared for the rehearsal, took the Baton from his counterpart in Pakistan before walking up to the BSF Conference Hall. Later, he also offered cold drinks to Hassan and the jawans of Pakistan Rangers. Besides a large contingent of artists from various states, local children also flocked to the Attari border for the full dress rehearsal of the ceremony. A group of children from India and Pakistan under a joint initiative of The Times of India and Jang group, Aman Ki Asha also rehearsed tying the ends of rope bearing small handkerchiefs carrying peace messages.

From an elaborate cultural extravaganza that will see Pakistani singing icon Rahat Fateh Ali create a cultural fusion with Indian qawali stars, the Wadalli brothers, to the handover of the baton to India’s sporting star and Olympic medalist Vijender Singh and woman boxing legend Mary Kom, the show promises to be a fitting curtain-raiser to the Delhi Games 2010 in October.

Kalmadi said, ‘‘It is a matter of immense pride for the entire nation. The Queen’s Baton Relay will act as a great unifying force for the country. We have broken ground for more sportspersons (to participate) but most importantly, we are here at the mecca of the Sikhs to receive the baton.’’ The enthusiasm was more than apparent as a host of local dignitaries, including Navjot Singh Sidhu, turned out to welcome the unveiling of OC plans. The Baton enters India from the Wagah Border on Friday. It will first be handed over to Kalmadi and thereafter to CWG president Michael Fennell, Punjab CM Prakash Singh Badal, Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and several other senior government officials.

The relay will officially be started by Vijendra Singh and Mary Kom, who will run with the baton for a few kilometres. Speculation is rife that a sportstar from the Pakistan sporting arena will also be part of the show. Others present on the occasion included MP and chairman of the media committee of organising committee, Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010, Tarlochan Singh, officer on special duty, CWG, Jagmohan Bhanot, BSF inspector general Himmat Singh and deputy inspector general Mohd Aquil.

Singh and his deputy, PS Gill, reviewed security at the border. BSF claimed to have taken all measures to ensure the ceremony is not marred by any untoward incident. It has also conveyed its security concern to Pakistan Rangers, asking them to keep a close watch on pro-Taliban elements, who had earlier attacked Indian villages with rockets.

BSF has issued special entry passes to visiting artists, while policemen have been deployed at every nook and corner to ensure the security of dignitaries and sportspersons expected on the big day.

After the handover on Friday, the baton will travel across 100 cities. From Punjab, it will travel to J&K and onwards, before reaching Delhi on September 30. The secret message of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II will be opened on October 3 when the opening ceremony is held.