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Prince Charles, Pratibha Patil will have prominent role

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Prince Charles's office sought to play down the reported row over whether he or President Pratibha Patil would open the Delhi Commonwealth Games saying that both would have a “prominent role” in the opening ceremony.

“We cannot be specific about the choreography but the Prince will read out the Queen's baton message, ending by declaring the Games open,” it said in a statement.

The reference to “declaring the Games open” left it open to interpretation, according to observers.

Reacting to a report in a London tabloid that the Indian government and the Prince Charles's office “appeared to be loggerheads” on the issue, a spokesperson for Clarence House, the Prince's official residence, insisted that there was “no row.”

“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,” she said.

Earlier, the Daily Mail quoted an anonymous Indian “official source” as saying: “Although there has not been an official announcement, we have decided the President will open the Games. If the Queen was here it would be different. But she's not.”

It said that the claims “made by officials from the Indian Department for Information and confirmed by sources from the Games' Organising Committee raise questions over whether the role of the Prince of Wales during his trip to Delhi next week has been downgraded.”

It pointed out that this was the first time in 44 years — since the Games were held in Kingston, Jamaica in 1966 — that the Queen would not attend the Games.

Special Correspondent reports from New Delhi:

Sources in the Central government said Ms. Patil would speak after Prince Charles read the Queen's message.

“Let the Games begin,” is the line Ms. Patil will state signalling the start of the multi-discipline event. The sources pointed out that the 1998 Commonwealth Games was inaugurated by the King of Malaysia, the country that hosted the event.

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