Friday, June 25, 2010

Weather factor changes Ganges journey plan

With ‘weather factor’ likely to play an important role, the Queen’s Baton Relay’s journey over the Ganges has been shortened. After a modification in the unique travel plan for the Baton in UP, now the Baton will be reaching Varanasi from Chunar through the Ganga instead of a longer journey from Allahabad to Varanasi planned earlier. The Baton will be taking about one and a half hours through this route which it will be taking on July 12.
Talking to The Indian Express, Principal Secretary Sports (UP) Lalit Varma said, “ After studying the feasibility of taking the baton for Commonwealth Games from Allahabad to Varanasi on a motor boat, we decided that the weather may not be all that supportive for the 7-hour long journey on the river. So now, the Baton will cover a distance of 20 km from Allahabad on the river, then it would be travelling on road again. After reaching Chunar, the Relay will be visiting the ‘Qila’ (fort) there and after that from Chunar till Varanasi, it will be a motor boat journey again.”

Director Sports (UP) Hari Om informed, “ The motor-boat is expected to have 70 to 80 members of the relay team.” While the video conferencing with the Principal Secretary, Sports, and the District Magistrates of the districts where the Baton Relay will pass, have been held twice, an important meeting between the officials from the Organising Committee of Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi and Atul Kumar Gupta, Chief Secretary (UP) was held at Lucknow on March 29 to discuss the modalities of the Queen’s Baton Relay’s travel through Up.

“A final meeting for making the Baton relay a big success will take place on June 28. It will be presided over by the Chief Secretary (UP). DMs and SPs of all concerned districts, sports department officials, UP Olympic Association officials, DGP (UP) besides medical, health, PWD and Cultural department officials will all be present on the occasion,” Hari Om further added.

As far as the route is concerned, it will remain almost the same. In the first phase, from July 8 to 13, the Queen’s Baton Relay will reach Bareilly from Uttarakhand at 2.00 pm on July 8. Thereafter, it would pass through Shahjahanpur and Sitapur on June 9 before reaching Lucknow at 4.15 pm the same day. The Queen’s Baton will be given a warm welcome at Lucknow too. During its night stay at Lucknow, cultural programmes will be organised at CMS Kanpur Road. Folk artistes will be playing a major role in the programmes. It would be heading towards Rae Bareli on July 10. After that it will pass through Amethi and Allahabad before reaching Chunar (Mirzapur) on July 12 from where it will be heading towards Varanasi via a motor boat through the Ganges. In the second phase, from September 19 to 22, the Relay will cover Jhansi and Agra before proceeding towards New Delhi.

Govt game for austerity to trim CWG ceremony costs

Despite a show of strength by the government and the Commonwealth Games Committee at the Wagah border to welcome the Queen’s Baton, there appear to be severe reservations over what all of this is going to cost the exchequer.

At the last GoM meeting on the Games, the finance ministry had made clear that the inaugural and closing ceremonies of the Games were costing way too much money. In a strict edict, the finance ministry informed the urban development ministry that the cost for both these ceremonies should “not to exceed Rs 300 crores.”

According to sources in the government, the figure quoted by the Commonwealth Games committee was close to Rs 450 crores. “The committee has been asked to re-work its budget following this stipulation,” said a government source. A major component of the cost was an expensive laser show in the inaugural ceremony, which again became controversial as the ceremony was scheduled to start at 5.30 in the evening—broad daylight makes laser lights redundant. The revised timing of the ceremony is now 7pm.

In fact, even the expenditure of the passage of the Queen’s Baton through the country was considered profligate by the finance ministry, especially the cost of moving the Queen’s Baton by air. It was said that organising committee would ask defence ministry to provide this escort free of charge. However, when the Financial Express enquired whether any such request was pending with the defence ministry, the answer was in the negative.

Even in the matter of lighting up prominent monuments in the city during the two week course of the Games, government has advised austerity. In fact, Delhi chief minister Sheila Diskhit has advised the committee that lighting of monuments “not be overdone” and that only monuments where cultural events are to take place be lit up.

Apart from profligacy, the the Games committee has also been lagging behind in the award of contracts for supplying sports equipment and even catering contracts. With just 100 days to go for the games to begin, the games within the committee refuse to end.

L-G sure Games Village work will be done in time

With just 100 days to the Commonwealth Games, construction of several infrastructure projects seems to have reached its final stage.

While most road and flyover projects are nearing completion, the government has now shifted its focus to the Commonwealth Games village.

Delhi's Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna visited the Games Village complex in east Delhi on Friday and expressed his satisfaction on progress of work. The LG inspected interiors of the flats, their security and landscaping of the complex and its surrounding areas.

"I am satisfied with the progress made and 100 per cent confident that the work would be completed well within the timeframe. There is absolutely nothing to worry," Khanna told the group of mediapersons accompanying him.

The residential complex, spread across 27 acres has 34 residential towers with 1,168 flats.  Emaar MGF, the developers of the complex, informed Khanna that nine towers have already been handed over to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The possession of the remaining 25 would be handed over by July 31.

Khanna said he has asked the developers to clean up the area surrounding the Games Village as well. "I have told the developer to remove scrap, level this plot of land and hand it over to DDA by July 5. The DDA will then take 15 days to complete landscaping. I'll visit the complex on July 6 to inspect the progress," the L-G said.

Games Baton in India at last

Right through the journey to this remote border post, two words kept popping up, albeit in different forms. Be it on billboards or as graffiti, their regular appearance had begun to irritate. But standing within handshaking distance of the Zero Line (the thin red line between India and Pakistan), the significance of Aman (peace) and Umeed (hope) dawned.

On view were the smartly turned out BSF personnel in battle fatigues and ceremonial attire. Wired-up and replete with the latest AK rifles, sniffer dogs and mine detectors, the sentinels were on guard along an ominous-looking fence, made to look even more imposing by the barbed wire on it. A few metres away, the Pakistan Rangers, attired in grey and black, carried out the same drill.

The mood might have mellowed on Friday with the Queen's Baton Relay crossing over to mark the 100-day countdown to the XIX Commonwealth Games, but behind the smiling faces, the strain was noticeable.

Despite the chill in ties, both sides united to roll out a spectacle. The buildup started early, 7:40 am to be precise, with Pakistan taking the lead by airing patriotic numbers. At 8:12 am, the two sides threw open their gates for the first time to enable their officials to interact.

The catchy tunes, blaring from the giant speakers, on the other side had set feet tapping when the BSF band warmed up with the composition Bharat ke Jawan. It was a well-rehearsed performance, as was the behaviour of the personnel. Prior to the start, the bandmaster exhorted his men to display conduct befitting the occasion.

At 8:35 am, the gates opened briefly and eight Indian children, carrying a chain of small banners, surged towards the Zero Line to mingle with their counterparts and add to the collection that called for peace.

The countdown to the big moment began at 9:23 am with Pakistan opening its gates. The clock struck 9:30 and Suresh Kalmadi, the Organising Committee chairman, flanked by Mike Fennell, the CWG Federation chief, walked to the Zero Line to receive the baton from Lt Gen Syed Arif Hassan, the Pakistan Olympic Association chief, and Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Pakistan Punjab.

Once home, the baton changed several hands before coming to rest with its bearers—boxers Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom. Once the ceremonial bit was over, it was over to the soul-stirring music of the Wadali brothers and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

People on both sides cheered.

Amid the frenetic activity on the Indian side, Pakistan slowly closed its gates, having delivered the baton to its destination and with it a message of 'Aman' and 'Umeed'.

The cultural events planned for the games

September 30, Thursday

* The Queen’s Baton relay enters Delhi from Gurgaon at 11 am.
* The baton will be relayed through north Delhi. It will visit some Games venues like the Rugby venue in Delhi University.
* Cultural event in the evening.

October 1, Friday

* The baton relay will continue in east Delhi. It’ll visit the Games Village and sporting venues like Yamuna Sports complex.
* Cultural event in the evening.

October 2, Saturday

* In Central Delhi, the baton is likely to be carried by different modes of transport like Metro, auto rickshaws and tongas.
* It’ll also be taken to historical monuments like the Qutab Minar and Red Fort during the relay.

October 3, Sunday

* The 340-day long Queen’s baton relay will conclude after the baton reaches Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and is docked there.
* Queen Elizabeth II’s message will be removed from the baton and read aloud, marking the opening of the Games.

Opening day ceremony — 5 pm to 8.30 pm

* The ceremony will kick off with a 30-second aerial display of fireworks from the stadium roof. There will be more fireworks throughout the Commonwealth nations flag parade.
* Oscar winning musician and singer A.R. Rahman, who has also composed the Games theme song, will perform.
* Orissa-based Prince Dance Group, which shot to fame after winning the reality show — India’s got talent — is also expected to perform. There will be an hour-long dance programme by the troupe of a renowned classical danseuse.
* The evening will end with another firework display.

October 3 - October 14

* Light and sound show at Red Fort depicting stories of freedom struggle and independence
* A similar show at Old Fort will be about the six cities within Delhi.
* Dasatan-e-Dilli, a 45-minute show about the story of Delhi will be held at Quli Khan tomb at Mehrauli.
* Previous winners of the annual Commonwealth Writers’ Prize will be brought together at a special literary event.
* All historical monuments and other important buildings will be illuminated.
* Events showcasing Indian folk and classical dances and music will be held at venues like Nehru Park, CP central park, Red Fort, Old Fort, Firoze Shah Kotla, Ravindra Bhawan, Humayun’s tomb, Safdarjang tomb, India Gate and the Games village.
* A special film and theatre festival is also being planned, apart from festivals showcasing Indian arts and crafts.
* Programmes featuring fusion music and dance will also be held at venues like Nehru Park and CP central park.

October 14, Thursday

Closing ceremony — 5 pm to 8.30 pm

* Like the opening ceremony, this event too will commence with a dazzling display of aerial fireworks.
* Commonwealth nations’ flag parade.
* Classical dance and music performances have been planned. The ceremony will be attended by eminent personalities from the field of sports, films, culture and politics.
* There will be a small presentation on the next Game in 2014 in Glasgow.
* Short promotional video of the next Commonwealth Games will be shown.
* The Commonwealth Games Ceremonial Flag will be handed to Glasgow, the next host city.
The Calendar

India, Pakistan singers chorus message of peace and love (With Queen's Baton story)

As Puranchand Wadali of the famous Wadali brothers singing duo began the jugalbandi "mast-kalandar" with Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, it received thunderous applause from an enthusiastic gathering present here to welcome the Queens Baton Relay for the 19th Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

"Ei hind kya jaane dil ko, uski bhi majboori hai, ishq mein pagal sa hona, shayad zaroori hai, chalte-chalte jug beetein hain, dil ki nazuk rahon mein, waqt-e-waqt-suna that humne, bus do kadmon ki doori hai," Khan and Wadali brothers sang, preaching the message of peace and brotherhood.

The strains of sufi music were quick to melt in the surroundings and soothed an exhausted gathering battling the scorching sun. It was a fitting welcome to the baton which was coming to India after traversing 1,90,000 km in 340 days.

The message was of love, whether it was the opening rendition Allahu by Khan or the Tu Maane Ya Na Maane by Wadalis, the theme being friendship through sports.

We want the animosity between the two countries (India and Pakistan) to end and what better way to do that than through music. In the past, the singers from the two countries were barred from entering each otherss countries and we want this wall to be broken, said the older of the Wadali brothers, Pyarelal Wadali.

Khan agrees and says it is peace that people of the two countries wish for. The effort is to use this platform to promote love and peace. Now with Commonwealth Games, we are striving to forge friendships through sport and we pray that we succeed in our endevour.

True to his words, Khan regaled the crowd when he ended his rendition with a Punjabi couplet which said; Rab na seta vich rehnda, na mandir vich rehna, rabnu randi sau, rab preeta vich rehna da. (God is niether in Sita nor in temple, God resides where there is love.)

A standing ovation was soon to follow and the rendition even got the applause from the crowd across the border. A host of dignitaries which included Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, governor Shivraj Patil, Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief Suresh Kalmadi, Pakistan Olympic Association chief Syed Arif Hassan, stood up clapping to acknowledge their performance.

The colourful ceremony also included folk dancers and musicians and a BSF band.

"We really like the performance of the Wadali brothers and Rahet Fateh Ali Khan. It had a message and it touched the hearts of everyone present. We hope it brings peace and harmony between the two neighbours, said Deepak Singh, a BSF personnel who was among the lucky few to attend the function.

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