Sunday, December 2, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


24-hour vigil to keep balloon afloat
Asha Ahuja

Vijay gives finishing touches to a balloon for the closing ceremony and (right) firemen keep a vigil over the gas cylinders that keep the flame alight. —IV

Ludhiana, December 1
A large balloon floating 40 feet above the Guru Nanak Stadium announces from a distance that the National Games are on in the Guru Nanak Stadium. What is not a common knowledge is that a single man has been keeping a 24-hour vigil on the balloon to keep it floating. Incidentally, his case can also be described as “so near and so far’’ as he could not watch a single event all these days due to his strict duty.

From tomorrow the Ludhinavis will be missing the balloon from the skyline as today night it will be removed and packed as the games will end.

Vijay Kumar, the man keeping vigil at the balloon, was giving finishing touches to the words on the balloon when Ludhiana Tribune contacted him. Due to exposure to the weather, the paint had come off from some points. He says, ‘‘ I have brought it down with the help of the ropes. After giving it finishing touches, I will let it fly for the last time. We fill the balloon with hydrogen gas’’.

Very few persons know that Vijay Kumar employed by Basant Arts, the creator of the balloon, stays put at the point for 24 hours near the media centre from where the balloon has been sent up. His job is to ensure that no one, absolutely no one, tampers with the ropes. Anu of Basant Arts says, ‘‘We lower the balloon in the night as the wind can blow very fast. Since Vijay also needs some sleep, he may not notice if the balloon is carried away. So lowering the balloon ensures its safety. We got the hydrogen cylinders specially from Nangal. So far seven cylinders have been used. One cylinder costs Rs 5000 and the cost of the balloon has been Rs 35,000.’’

Vijay Kumar, who keeps a strict watch over the balloon says, ‘‘I am sometimes so keen to watch the events that are going inside the stadium but it is my moral duty to see that no one touches the ropes of the balloon. I am so near the games yet they are so far from me. Yesterday the excitement was tremendous, so I just went and watched the football match for a few moments otherwise I sit on the cot and protect my balloon from the young students ’’. He added that he comes to know about the exciting happenings through the talks of the people and some friends who keep telling him all interesting things that are happening around. Vijay said that today night the balloon would be brought down for ever, ‘‘The deflation process will be hectic as it would take 3to 4 hours for the gas to be released slowly.’’

Next to him stand two firemen, Satpal Singh and Harbans Lal, along with a driver of tender of the Ludhiana Fire Service. They have the job of watching that nobody, just nobody, goes near the gas cylinders that are supplying gas to the flame. Their job is also very hard as anyone can throw a lighted cigarette or some mischievous element can throw a lighted match.



We loved coming to Punjab, chorus players
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 1
They had come to the city with jubilation and excitement and are now leaving the city with a heavy heart. With the 31st National Games concluding here today, the participants are going back to their respective states with the memories both good and bad. But the association and the friendship they formed with other players and enjoyed the competition make them sad at the separation.

A cross-section of the sportspersons Ludhiana Tribune spoke to were all praise for the people of Ludhiana, the Punjabi spirit of hospitality and cooperation and of course the food offered to them.

Arunachalam, Captain of the Handball team of Karnataka, said the conduct of the last Games were better than these. He alleged that various teams of Punjab being the host were being favoured by the organisers. Quoting an example from the yesterday’s handball match played between Punjab and Services men, Arunachalam said the Punjab team got a gold because they raised a lot of hue and cry during the match.

“They would have sacrificed as they were hosts. This was a very bad behaviour on the part of Punjab team yesterday,” echoed Jose P. John of the same team. “What we have really liked is the behaviour of the people that has been very nice and full of cooperation with us,” said John. John liked roaming on the roads of Chaura Bazar and Ghanta Ghar and did a lot of shopping for his family.

Another athlete from Punjab, Murti said the games were not very well organised as these were being conducted in different cities. He said that the participants had to go to different places as these were being conducted in Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar and Chandigarh. He said that they were not allowed to stay back till the closing of the games.

Rajpal Singh, manager of athletics team of Haryana, was all praise for the various facilities provided to them during the games. He said that the competition level witnessed during these games were quite high. “There was a challenge for every team and the competition was quite healthy. As a sportsman I am fully satisfied with the kind of competition that the various teams were posing to each other.”

One thing he did not miss was to buy sweaters and shawls for his family. “You know Ludhiana is the Manchester of India? How can I stop myself from buying woollens from here, he said.”

Manpreet of hockey team of Punjab found the competitions quite hard this time. She said her stay in the GCW hostel was quite comfortable. Ishely Lomo, an athlete from Jammu and Kashmir, was also of the same view that the competitions were very hard.

Disket Lagol of J&K was very critical about the behaviour of Punjabis. “I did not like them as they used to rush to the matches where Punjab team was playing. Other matches had no interest for them,” she said.

Ratti Malhotra of UP found the conduct of National games very good but the competition very hard. She said, “It was my first performance at the National Games so I found it quite difficult here.”

Juliet Lawrence of handball team found the indoor stadium and management of the various grounds beyond her expectations. “Everything was more than satisfying here. We loved coming to Punjab and look forward to come here again and again.”

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