Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Queen’s baton relay in Kolkata



Last Sunday it was pouring heavily since morning. I was worried that the XIX Commonwealth Queen’s Baton Relay, an open-air function scheduled at the north gate of the Victoria Memorial, would be a damp squib if the rains did not stop. And then, as if Mother Nature had heard my prayers, the weather cleared up by 2 pm.
The Queen’s Baton Relay, similar to the Olympic Torch Relay, is held prior to the beginning of the Commonwealth Games. The Baton (made of aluminium, gold and 18 carat gold leaf) carries a message handed over to the first relay runner by the Head of the Commonwealth. The baton is handed over to the Queen or her representative at the Opening Ceremony of the Games after a relay that covers 70 nations of the Commonwealth.
Few people know that the Baton has quite a few electronic features. It can capture sounds and images. It can be tracked by the global positioning system (GPS) and it emits lights that can mimic the colours of the flag of the country it is in.
The Kolkata leg of the Commonwealth Games Baton Relay function, held last Sunday, wasn’t well organised and did not measure up to the gravity and significance of the event. May be the weather added to the chaos. There were more invitees than chairs. In fact, many important guests could not get proper chairs to sit during the function. Could be, the organisers had underestimated the spirit of Kolkatans who always turn up in large numbers for such events - rain or shine.
People from all walks of life were there. I met Saurav Ganguly, Chuni Goswami, Dibyendu Barua, Chief Secretary, GOC Bengal, Tanmoy Bose, Dev and others apart from the hosts Kolkata Police Commissioner and Raghabendra Singh, Principal Secretary of Sports Department and others. I chatted up with P K Banerjee, Rituparna Sengupta and Rita Bhimani, who also compered the function. Rita was discussing about my recent article in the Hindustan Times on honorary consuls. The article had created quite a stir in some quarters in the city. I could sense this as I attended the Swiss National Day at The Taj banquets in the evening. Many honorary consuls mentioned about it to me.
In the evening, after the Victoria Memorial function, I missed the Baton program at the Police Training School as well as the ballet by Mamata Shankar.
But this time nothing seems to be going right with the Commonwealth Games. From the absence of some of the top athletes, especially Usian Bolt, to all sorts of doubts about completion of the sports venue have surfaced. This was further confirmed on Tuesday evening when I was in Delhi for an appointment at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
I went to Delhi for half-a-day and returned to Kolkata in the evening thanks to the new 1:30 pm Indian Airlines flight from Kolkata to Delhi that started few months back.
Delhi is a buzz with the Commonwealth Games fiasco and the alleged charges of corruption and nepotism have reached a certain decibel such that the euphoria and halo around the Games has begun to fade.
From people at the airport lounge to the ever-informed taxi driver to co-passengers - the Commonwealth Games is on everyone’s mind for the wrong reasons. As more skeletons tumble out of the cupboard, the proposed games have become the butt of jokes and ridicule. People have coined their own phrases. I overheard someone calling it the `Commonstealth Games’ while another person defined it as the Games to plunder common man’s wealth.
Back home, even at the adda sessions, the Commonwealth Games invariably finds its way into discussions. As I write this blog I must confess I too am worried about the Games that would be watched by 70 other countries.
With my hand on chest I hear myself saying ALL IZ WELL.
ess bee

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