The imperious grounds of Buckingham Palace on Thursday reverberated with the beat of ‘bhangra’ dancers as India formally took charge of next year’s Delhi Commonwealth Games, with President Pratibha Patil receiving the Queen’s Baton from Queen Elizabeth II at a star-studded ceremony watched by millions of television viewers back home.
The event, conducted with the precision of a military drill, saw the Queen receive the high-tech baton from the Chief of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Fennell, and hand it over to Ms. Patil, who then passed it to Sports Minister M.S. Gill. Finally, it ended up in the hands of Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the organising committee of the Delhi Games, who set the Baton Relay rolling by handing it over to bearer Abhinav Bindra, India’s only Olympic Gold medallist, and the first of the 11 sportspersons — including Kapil Dev and Sania Mirza — who took turns to carry the Baton around Victoria Memorial.
Ms. Patil is the first head of state to receive the Baton from the Queen.
The actual handing over ceremony lasted barely a few moments, but it was preceded by a nearly hour-long warm-up act showcasing Indian culture through a dance-and-music spectacle. It was shown on giant screens erected around the Palace grounds.
A gaggle of amused tourists peeped through the gates of the Palace and waved to the Indian artistes. Some were seen taking photographs on their mobile phones.
For a day, at least, all controversies surrounding the Delhi Games were forgotten, as organisers sought to present a united front. Mr. Gill insisted that there was no crisis and everyone was focused on ensuring the success of the Delhi Games.
Mike Hooper, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games, who was at the centre of an ugly spat with Mr. Kalmadi, said it was not a day to moan about “bricks and mortars,” alluding to his dissatisfaction with the progress of some of the Delhi Games projects, but to get on with the show.
The Relay, signalling the formal countdown for the Delhi Games, would pass through all the Commonwealth countries during its 240-day journey, before concluding at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for the opening of the Games on October 3, 2010.
The Baton, which is fitted with sensors to detect and monitor the runner’s pulse, has the Queen’s message engraved onto a miniature 18-carat gold leaf symbolising the ancient Indian palm leaf patras.
No crisis, says Gill
Vidya Subrahmanian writes:
Mr. Gill on Thursday said all controversies surrounding the Games had been resolved and there was “no crisis.”
The Minister said he spoke to Mr. Fennell on the phone and also had talks with Mr. Kalmadi. Both assured him that all issues had been sorted out.
The message, he added, was “clear” that India would hold “very good Games.”
“The mood of the country, the mood of the Cabinet, and the mood of the Prime Minister is: be ready and organise good games, and that’s what it will be.”