Today's Paper

Indian woman in Olympic torch relay on Chinese soil

Pallavi Aiyar

Beijing: An Indian touch was added to the Olympic torch relay on Monday as it continued its three-month criss-crossing journey across China. Meena Barot, 36, a businesswoman, became the only Indian to run in the relay on Chinese soil when she held up the Olympic torch for the about 60-metre trot on Monday morning. The run was part of the relay in the northwestern city of Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province.

One of eight expatriates selected to be torch-bearers through an online contest last year, Ms. Barot said she felt like “jumping up and down with excitement like a kid” when she felt the torch in her hand.

Born in Baroda, Ms. Barot grew up in Mumbai. She moved to China in 2005 to start an office for an Indian company that sources pharmaceuticals from China for export to Africa.

When she heard of the opportunity to be part of the relay she impulsively decided to try her luck since she found that there was no other Indian contestant on the list.

“I really wanted there to be a representative from India, too,” she told The Hindu over the telephone from Lanzhou. She was selected out of 262 applicants after garnering over 9,000 votes.

Ms. Barot described the scene at Monday’s relay as the “biggest celebration, with the most ‘josh’ I have ever seen in my life.” She said the road leading from her hotel to the starting point of the relay, a 5-km-long stretch, was packed with onlookers, who had begun queuing up from the previous day.

Although she missed having her parents witness the moment, health troubles having kept them in India, she said the cheering and support of the crowd made up for the disappointment. “They were strangers but they encouraged me like family.”

Joining Ms. Barot were two women expatriates from the United States and Venezuela, as well as five men from the Philippines, Germany, Japan, Colombia and Russia.

“The great thing about the Olympics is that it brings the world together without any borders. You can just forget about any political issues that may separate you and focus just on celebrating humanity,” a proud Ms. Barot added on Monday.

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