M A I N   N E W S

Disappointing Olympic flame relay
Corporate honchos and glamour dolls hog the limelight
M. S. Unnikrishnan

New Delhi, June 10
The Olympic flame today lit up the streets of New Delhi and Old Delhi, in an extravagant display of pomp and show. But it also left a trail of disappointment in its wake, as genuine sportspersons felt slighted and ignored.

Corporate honchos and glamour dolls hogged the limelight by being part of the torch relay while those whose contribution to Indian sports have been written in golden letters, were made to cool their heels on the sidelines.

It was no surprise that an Olympian of P T Usha's stature opted to ignore the "invitation" of Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi to participate in the relay, as an afterthought.

The Olympic torch relay was utilised by a motley group to steal the spotlight.

The 33-km route of the torch relay was packed with people, though no major traffic bottlenecks were reported from anywhere. But the media, particularly the lensmen, had lot of skirmishes with the security people. The flame was also accompanied by special security of the IOC.

The Olympic flame came in a special 747 Boeing aircraft named 'Zeus' from Beijing in the morning, and Mr Kalmadi received the flame lantern at the Indira Gandhi International Airport today morning.

Then after some formal functions, the flame was taken to the historic Qutab Minar for the journey through the select streets of the national Capital.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit handed over the flame to Kalmadi for the first lap, and the IOA president made a laborious bid to cover the distance assigned to him. He truly understood how difficult it was to slog it out on the track, outside of air-conditioned comfort.

Though the second runner listed was IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh, who is a five-time Olympian shooter and the only member of the International Olympic Committee from India, he did not run the lap. Instead, former Indian hockey team captain Ajit Pal Singh received the torch from Kalmadi and the onward journey, with several halts in between, had begun.

Cricketers Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan were there as promised, but there was no sign of tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi and football star Baichung Bhutia and other top sports were missing. Some minor starlets and film actors, and self-proclaimed 'celebrities' only trivialised the sacred nature of the Olympic torch relay, considering the fact that the torch had received reverential importance in Australia, Japan and China before coming to Delhi.

Only Doordarshan was allowed to beam the relay live from start to finish. Other channels were allotted only select spots to 'shoot'. The torch relay ended with a cultural programme at the National Stadium late in the evening.

Though the Olympic torch relay was projected as a global event which was a "symbol of unity", and its theme was "pass the flame and unite the world", it created only a discordant note in India.

The Olympic flame is on a journey of all the five continents spanning 29 countries before returning to Athens (Greece) before the Olympic Games, to be held from August 13 to 29.

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