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Big names at IOA's Athens bash

August 28, 2004 19:48 IST

The country's athletes may not have done well at the Olympics, but Indian Olympic Association officials proved the perfect hosts by throwing a lavish party in Athens on the sidelines of the Games.

Two days ago IOA president Suresh Kalmadi arranged a high-profile party to tell foreign delegates about the Half Marathon Championships, which Delhi will host in October.

The IOA chief also used the occasion to felicitate Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennel. Officials from the CGF were also among those invited to the party.

India, incidentally, will host the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Kalmadi pulled off a coup of sorts by roping in the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, who not only mingled with the guests but stayed on till late in night for dinner.

He promised to visit India and witness the World Half Marathon.

Diack said the first-ever world level athletics event to be held in India indicated how the country is being noticed as an athletics power in Asia. No Asian country has hosted the World Half Marathon.

Despite the presence of these high-ranking officials, the cynosure of eyes were legendary Cuban athlete Alberto 'The horse' Juantorena, winner of a rare 400-800 metres double at the Montreal Games in 1976, and pole vault legend Sergei Bubka of Ukraine.

Bubka, the six-time world champion and still the world record holder in men's pole vault, talked freely with the guests and joined the queue for Indian food.

The venue for the party was the Jaipur Palace restaurant in Central Athens, which provided the perfect ambience.

"I enjoyed myself and it was a great experience. I look forward to visiting your country again.

"I notice that some of your athletes have now begun doing well at Grand Prix meets and even won a World Championship medal ([Anju George's bronze] last year," he added.

Juantorena was there for a short while in his capacity as member of the IAAF Executive Board.

Also present was Sam Ramsamy, well-known sports administrators from South Africa. A member of the International Olympic Committee, his major contribution came as member of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) when the country returned to the Olympic fold in 1992.

There were a host of top Indian officials and politicians as well. Apart from deputy chef de mission Harish Sharma, minister for NRI Affairs Jagdish Tytler, former ministers Vidya Charan Shukla, Digvijay Singh, Shatrughan Sinha and K P Singh Deo were also among the guests.

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