Monday, June 21, 2010

Commonwealth Games: Queen's Baton Relay to enter India on June 25

CHANDIGARH: The Queen's Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games is to enter India from Pakistan via the Wagah border on Friday. A grand event has been planned for the occasion after which the baton will travel through the country before reaching New Delhi ahead of the event in October.

The baton will enter India from Pakistan at 9.25 a.m.

'President of Pakistan Olympics Association Syed Arif Hassan would hand over the baton to Indian Olympics Association (IOA) chief Suresh Kalmadi at the Attari-Wagah border. Other senior IOA officials will also accompany Kalmadi during this historic ceremony,' Raja Sidhu, nodal officer of IOA and the Punjab government, told IANS.

After crossing the border, the baton will cover nearly 28 states and seven union territories, travelling a distance of over 20,000 km, before finally reaching New Delhi on Sep 30.

The national capital is set to host the Commonwealth Games from Oct 3-14. It will be the biggest sporting extravaganza to be held in India after the country hosted the 1982 Asian Games.

The Queen's Baton Relay is a relay around the world held prior to the beginning of the games. The baton carries a message from the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, currently Queen Elizabeth II of the UK.

The baton for the 2010 Games was launched by Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace in London on Oct 29 last year in the presence of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

India's only gold medal winner in the Olympics, shooter Abhinav Bindra, was the first baton-bearer of the longest relay for any CWG.

'Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will later receive the baton. Olympians like Bindra, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar are also expected to be present there but we are still waiting for their final confirmation. A symbolic relay will be held at the time, but the actual relay will be held in the evening,' said Sidhu.

He said thousands are expected to witness the event.

Elaborate arrangements have been made to welcome the baton at the border and a roadmap has been prepared of the various halts and programmes on the relay route.

'The function will start at around 8 a.m. and a special cultural programme will be organised before the baton moves towards Amritsar,' Punjab sports director and nodal officer of state government Pargat Singh told IANS.

He said: 'After an overnight stay at Amritsar, the baton is scheduled to reach Patiala at 4 p.m. June 26 via Jalandhar and Ludhiana. At all these places, hundreds of spectators, including international-level players, will extend a warm welcome to it. We have made arrangements for refreshments for the participants and spectators.'

By the end of its journey, the baton will have travelled over 190,000 km, through different modes of transport across land, air and sea, in 340 days, making the baton relay 2010 one of the longest relays in the history of the CWG.

The Amritsar police and administration have made foolproof arrangements to ensure the security and safety of the baton.

'The district police have made all arrangements to ensure the security of the baton. We have already made all arrangements for guests coming to Amritsar for this gala event. This is a big event and we are working day and night to make it a big success,' K.S. Pannu, deputy commissioner of Amritsar, told IANS.

The Wagah border is around 30 km from Amritsar, which is around 250 km from state capital Chandigarh. 

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