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New Delhi set to welcome Olympic flame
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi |
April 16, 2008 20:30 IST
China should not have any doubts about India's efforts in securing safe passage to the Olympic flame; there is no diplomatic ambiguity about it. This was the point emphasised by Indian Olympics [Images] Association President Suresh Kalmadi at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.
At the press conference, Kalmadi highlighted the government's resolve to not only maintain law and order during the torch relay but showed India's total support to China's gigantic efforts for the Olympics.
Dozens of Chinese officers from Beijing [Images] are in New Delhi along with the media crew.
The IOA has left no one in doubt that success of the torch relay has become a prestige issue for them.
"Hindustan ka mamla hai, (it is India's concern)," said Randhir Singh, IOA secretary general told rediff.com.
IOA claims Thursday will be a red letter day.
Kalamdi said, "The torch is sacred and we will protect it."
Dismissing concerns on security and excessive policing, he said Tibetans could protest but not where the torch relay ceremony was being held.
Tibetan protests are a serious security concern, but the might of India's security establishment is at work, as well.
Tibetan immigrants' fury against Chinese actions on Tibetans in Lhasa has made things so difficult for India that Kalmadi could not even announce the exact time of the torch relay.
All he said was that "it will happen sometime in the afternoon."
Neither could he reveal when the torch will arrive from Islamabad nor could he tell the media where will be 'sacred" torch will be kept in New Delhi.
Kalmadi also ruled out the participation of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi [Images] in the ceremony.
But, despite little absurd realties, due to excessive security arrangements, the IOA president was looking pleased with the 'line-up' for the relay, which comprises some of the best sporting talent of the country.
Leander Paes [Images], P T Usha and Anju Bobby George provided the glamour and status necessary at the press conference. The trio tried to inject the much-needed enthusiasm while giving television bytes.
The Indian government, with its experience of tackling Kashmiris, Khalistanis, jihadis, Maoists and all shades of rebels on the Indian streets, has created a sanitized zone between the entry point of Rashtrapati Bhawan and India Gate where the torch relay will take place.
One visit to the place shows men in uniform in every nook and corner of the area.
At the starting point and at time of termination of the torch relay, only invited people will be allowed, but, Kalmadi claimed that people could see the torch en route. However, the route is barricaded from both sides and only a handful of uninvited people would be able to see the actual relay.
The Traffic Police has already announced the restriction to traffic in and around India Gate on Thursday.
The government claims they will let Tibetans make 'anti-China' protests, but they will not be allowed to come near the route of the torch relay.
It seems that the entire event may be over in less than two hours, may be quicker than that. More than 70 sportsmen and sportswomen will run with the torch on the route, stretching up to two kilometres. Hardly a couple of minutes will be given to an individual player. Not more than 500 people have been invited to the ceremony.
Kalmadi claimed that a number of sports people were keen on taking part in the event, but because of restrictions they had not been invited.
Without spelling out much Kalmadi treaded carefully in the press conference, which was 'the biggest' he has ever addressed. He said the entire world was watching and one of the greatest shows of torch relay should be in India.
"The torch must be held high," he said.
According to Usha, "I am a sportswoman. Olympics is dream come true for any sportswoman. We would love to participate. Let us participate."
Commander Nandy Singh, veteran of the gold medal-winning 1948 and 1952, told rediff.com, "Since the days of Israel-Palestine conflict, world has changed. I agree with the Tibetan cause but the issue of Olympics to be held by China and the issue of Tibet's [Images] freedom can not be mixed. Protestors should have done all these protests when IOC awarded Olympics to China four years ago. These days the fun of Olympics has gone."