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India wishes Beijing Olympic a grand success: Milkha Singh

New Delhi, Apr 17 (UNI) Legendary runner Milkha Singh and cine star Aamir Khan led the star parade amid unprecedented security cover as the truncated 2.3 KM relay of the Olympic Torch went off peacefully at the Rajpath here today.

The climax of the relay was the best part of this 55 minute show when the tennis duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi jointly ran the last part of the relay and handed over the torch to Sports Minister MS Gill at India Gate.

It was a heady mix of sports and glamour as Saif Ali Khan, and 'Chak De India' Girl Sagarika Ghatge rubbed shoulders with athletes while hockey greats Ajit Pal Singh, Dhanraj Pillay, Zafar Iqbal, MP Ganesh and Aslam Sher Khan went down the memory lane.

There were sportspersons like swimmer Khazan Singh, Karnam Malleswari, Kunjarani Devi and Anju George who did India proud with their sterling showing on the international fora.

The entire stretch of Rajpath was teeming with security personnal as the torch was lit at the specially designed stage just outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan by a three-member special Chinese task force which has been accompanying the torch from the start.

After lighting the torch, they handed it over to Bejing Olympic Games Organising committee (BOGOC) vice president Jiang Xiaoyu who in turned gave it to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit.

The Chief Minister then handed the torch to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi who ran 15 meters before giving it to Milkha Singh.

''It is a great moment, a dream come true,'' said a visibly relieved Suresh Kalmadi after he ran his lap. ''We were confident that the relay will be a great success and it has come true.'' Milkha Singh, just before receiving the torch from Kalmadi, told UNI that he was very happy to be the first sportsperson to carry the torch in India. ''The torch is a peace message.India welcomes this Olympic Torch with open heart.It is a celebration of sports and its spirit. Indians want Beijing Olympics to be a grand success.'' Though the relay went off peacefully, there was a tinge of sadness among the participants because of lack of people's participation. ''I wish there were people to be part of this celebration,'' said one sportsperson.

The two oldest participants in the rally were hockey legends Balbir Singh (SR) and Cdr Nandy Singh. Balbir was a member of the Indian Gold medal winning team of 1948, 52 and 56 while Nandy representted the country in 1948 and 52.

All the 67 - participants were brought to the starting point near the Rashtrapati Bhawan in three buses and they were followed by a fleet of cars carrying Chinese officials and the torch.

The participants were called on the stage one by one for their introductions and after that the relay began.

There were a few techincal glitches which saw light of couple of torches going off but the matter was set right in no time and the relay continued.

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Story first published: Thursday, April 17, 2008, 18:39 [IST]
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