Thursday, June 24, 2010

Baton showcases power of sport to bridge societies

There are a hundred days to go for the start of the XIX Commonwealth Games. What a lovely day it promises to be, with us assembling at the Wagah Border to receive the Queen’s Baton 2010 Delhi from Pakistan after travelling to 69 nations across the Commonwealth over 240 days.

I am excited that we are witnessing the power of sport to be a bridge between societies. Our colleagues in the Pakistan Olympic Association have always offered us great support—helping us in November 2003 to win the bid to host the Games and standing by us through thick and thin, seeing themselves as co-hosts. I am confident, therefore, that Indo-Pakistan sport will remain an important connect between the peoples of the two great nations.

I am delighted that the Baton has completed a remarkable journey over 170,000 km on the international sector from the time it was launched in Buckingham Palace on October 29, 2009 by Queen Elizabeth II in the presence of President Smt. Pratibha Patil.

The Baton has passed through the hands of numerous Heads of State and leaders, ace athletes and common folk. It has been to iconic locations, been to parks that speak out for conservation of flora and fauna in keeping with our resolve to host the first Green Games. It has been exposed to a variety of modes of transport and has encapsulated the diversity of the Commonwealth.

But more importantly, it has demonstrated the remarkable power of sport to unite the Commonwealth. It is a powerful tool that can strengthen social ties and networks, and promotes ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice — all that independent India has stood for.

It has also acted as an ambassador for the Delhi Commonwealth Games, inviting the athletes from far off lands to come here for the celebrations of the Games. Back home in India, as it covers 20,000 km over the next 100 days, the Baton will be a wonderful opportunity for us to instill a greater sense of national pride in ourselves and to promote Olympic sport.

I must thank the Governments of each state and UT for being an integral part of this project that will touch millions of people. I am sure the Baton can and will be the launch pad for the creation of a greater sense of sports consciousness in the country. On this milestone day, with just 100 days to go for the curtain to go up on the biggest sporting spectacle in India, the Organising Committee renews it commitment to hosting not just a successful Games but also a grand and memorable one.

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