Chandigarh, July 3 (Calcutta Tube) The Queen’s baton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games was received here Saturday evening by legendry sportsmen from the city — athlete Milkha Singh, former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev and Olympian shooting gold medallist Abhinav Bindra — amid a cold public response.
The 1.1 million residents of the city remained oblivious of the baton’s arrival except for those who encountered traffic diversions due to the roads being sealed in the heart of the city.
The baton that had come from the Western Command headquarters at Chandimandir, in the neighbouring Panchkula town, passed through the hands of renowned athlete Milkha Singh, who is also popularly known as Flying Sikh, Kapil Dev and Bindra on the nearly one-kilometre route.
The route from Matka Chowk (roundabout) to cricket stadium in Sector 16 here was decorated with colourful flags but there were hardly any spectators to witness this spectacle.
Police and para-military personnel deployed on the route outnumbered the public. The baton reached the stadium along with a cavalcade of nearly 25 vehicles, including open jeeps and cars.
Even at the cricket stadium, the public response was lukewarm and a bulk of the spectators were only youngsters and school children.
The whole event appeared more like a family affair for Chandigarh administration officials and senior defence officials, who had reached the stadium with their families.
Besides their children, many guests were busy in getting their photographs clicked with Games mascot Shera.
The event was also marred by mismanagement as several mediapersons struggled to capture the pictures of Kapil Dev and Abhinav Bindra, when they ran with the baton inside the stadium.
Singh, Dev and Bindra were also present at the Buckingham Palace in London Oct 29, last year, when the baton was flagged off by Queen Elizabeth in the presence of Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
On Saturday, Bindra did not attend the entire ceremony and left the venue much early.
‘It is a very great feeling that the baton is passing through my own city. We want to maintain the enthusiasm and it is a great ceremony. We are expecting very good games in Delhi and better performance by India,’ said Kapil Dev, while talking to reporters here.
‘I am sure that India will get the home advantage and they will improve their previous performance,’ he added.
Milkha Singh, who had especially come from the US just two days ago to attend the ceremony, said: ‘I have great hopes from India in boxing and shooting. This is a great moment and I hope that this baton will inspire the youngsters of Chandigarh.’
Delhi will host the Games Oct 3-14. It will be the biggest sporting extravaganza to be held in India after the country hosted the 1982 Asian Games.
Over 10,000 athletes and officials will participate in the sporting competition.
The baton will proceed towards Una in Himachal Pradesh Sunday morning.