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Charles to open CWG; Athletes, officials now ALL praise FOR games Village
Published on 28 Sep. 2010 12:41 AM IST
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Ending weeks of speculation over who will inaugurate the Commonwealth Games, the British royal family on Monday announced that Prince Charles will declare the event open instead of Indian President Pratibha Patil.
After confusion grew over who will open the event among the two, Charles’ office Clarence House issued a statement, asserting that the heir-to-the-throne will inaugurate it.
Charles is attending the Games as a representative of Queen Elizabeth II, the ceremonial head of the Commonwealth who will give the event a miss for the first time in 44 years.
“There is no row. Both The Prince of Wales and the President of India will have a prominent role in the opening ceremony in Delhi. The Queen has asked The Prince of Wales to represent her at the opening of the Commonwealth Games.
“We cannot be specific about the choreography but The Prince will read out the Queen’s baton message, ending by declaring the Games open,” a statement from the Clarence House read.
Earlier, a British tabloid quoted some of the officials of the Indian Department of Information as saying that the Indian President would open the Games.
The Queen’s Baton Relay has acted as the curtain-raiser to every Games since Cardiff in 1958.
It involves the Baton being sent off by the Queen, then carried through each Commonwealth nation until it is passed back to the Monarch as her message to the athletes is read out at the opening.
According to the official programme, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be in India from October 2 to 5.
They will spend time with athletes from a broad cross-section of Commonwealth countries and in a series of events in Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan they will see recent progress in the fields of bilateral trade and investment promotion, education, military co-operation, protection of the environment and youth entrepreneurship.
“With bilateral trade standing at £11 billion per year and Indian investment in the UK worth approximately £9 billion, The Prince of Wales will meet senior business leaders to support continued growth of this area of Britain’s economy,” a recent press release had said.
“The Prince has visited India on many previous occasions and has placed great emphasis on supporting and encouraging the British Indian origin community for more than 30 years, most recently establishing his British Asian Trust in 2007. With The Duchess of Cornwall, he will take the opportunity to celebrate growing co-operation between our two countries,” it added.
The Prince of Wales has made six official visits to India while it will be The Duchess of Cornwall’s second official visit to India.
After being in the news for all the wrong reasons for months, the Commonwealth Games Village witnessed a complete turnaround in perceptions Monday with the 1,000-odd athletes and officials who have checked in looking pleased at what they saw.
“The rooms are the best ever provided in any other Commonwealth Games. The food is also great. The international zone is a great place,” said Nigerian chef de mission Elias Usman Gora, even as he pointed to the need for “better coordination” in the respect of security for the Oct 3-14 Games.
Gora’s remarks echoed those of South African High Commissioner Harris Mbulelo Sithembile Majeke, who had created a stir Sunday by saying a snake had been found in an apartment allotted to his country’s athletes. He sang a completely different tune Monday. “With only five days to go before the Commonwealth Games begin, we remain optimistic that India will deliver a memorable Games,” Majeke told reporters here.
As the athletes got a measure of the Village, helicopters hovered overhead as security was tightened on the roads and a fresh alert was issued to the states against terror strikes.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have also been placed on standby to guard against airborne intrusions, a security official told IANS.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit toured the Village Monday in a golf cart to inspect the progress of the cleaning up operation. She said all steps are being taken to maintain the Village spic and span.
The first batch from Scotland, who had delayed their arrival, moved into the Village and they looked pleased with the facilities.
“We are really happy with all the facilities. We are having a good time here. We went to the archery venue and we found lush green field was really nice. The facility is up there with some of the best fields I have seen at the World championships,” Scottish archer Claudine Jenning told IANS.
The food, she added, was excellent.
Said Mike Summer from the Falkland Islands: “I came on Sep 22... I have checked the accommodation several times and am now satisfied with the progress.”
On the flip side, an unhappy Kenyan camp said it expected more. “We came yesterday (Sunday). Our experience has been average,” a Kenyan delegate complained to IANS. “The rooms could have been cleaner,” added Ruth Mueni Nzioka, a Kenyan team official.
With preparations beginning in earnest for the Games kicking off Sunday evening, authorities enforced dedicated traffic lanes after forcing over 1,500 Blueline public transport buses plying on 132 routes till Oct 16 to ease traffic congestion on Delhi roads. These routes pass through central Delhi and near the Games venues.
Consequently, traffic has risen sharply on Delhi Metro. Though schools in the city will be closed from Oct 1 till the Games end Oct 14, students and commuters will find it tough dealing with traffic jams and fewer public transport buses until then.
The exclusive CWG lanes were operational from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday onwards on certain stretches of Delhi roads.
As the city prepared for the much anticipated event, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed confidence that it would be conducted “properly and smoothly”.
“I am quite confident that the Games will be conducted smoothly, and (the) country will be happy to see (it) being conducted properly and smoothly. And there is no problem in conducting the Games,” Mukherjee told a Kerala-based channel.
In all this, a new question arose: Who will inaugurate the 19th edition of the Games?
Sources in the Organising Committee (OC) said Monday Indian President Pratibha Patil and Britain’s Prince Charles may share the honours in the absence of the Commonwealth head, Queen Elizabeth.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, dismissed a petition seeking the removal of Suresh Kalmadi as chairman of the Games Organising Committee.
Some 7,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories are expected to participate in the Commonwealth Games, India’s largest sporting event since the 1982 Asian Games.

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