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Games all set to begin, festive mood in Village

K.P. Mohan

Anxieties over, praise for arrangements

- PHOTO: V. SUDERSHAN

ROYAL VISITORS: Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, accompanied by President Pratibha Patil and her husband Devisingh Shekhawat, take a stroll through the Mughal Gardens during a visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday. The couple are in India to attend the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

NEW DELHI: After months of uncertainty and controversies, the day of reckoning has arrived for the Commonwealth Games.

The opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday, to be marked by a multicrore cultural extravaganza, dance, music and fireworks, should boost the sagging spirits of the organisers and the common man alike.

With the tickets priced high — the lowest denomination at Rs. 1,000 — most of the Delhiites have resigned themselves to watching the spectacle live on television.

The 11-day Games, to be formally inaugurated jointly by President Pratibha Patil and Prince Charles at the 60,000-capacity stadium, should once again see the complete domination of Australia, though as the host India should fancy its chances better than ever before.

The inaugurations of multidiscipline games have become glitzier and costlier since the Los Angeles Olympics set the trend in 1984, while they are also being evaluated for the precision with which they are executed and the technological innovations that are brought in.

A Rs. 40-crore aerostat, adding to the ambience at the Nehru Stadium, would provide additional novelty to Sunday's show, which has been developed by a creative team headed by Bharat Bala and supported by Shyam Benegal and Prasoon Joshi.

There is hope that the ceremony would help erase the embarrassment caused to the nation during the past fortnight, when appalling dereliction shown by the authorities brought international focus on to the Games, the biggest sporting event in India after the 1982 Asian Games.

Some sheen would be missing from the Games because of the withdrawals by some of the top-ranked athletes, including world and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica. But there are a number of other world-beaters and world record holders to compensate for their absence.

The inclusion of wrestling, archery and tennis should help India to considerably improve upon its medals tally of 50 including 22 gold medals at the 2006 Melbourne Games. There India had finished fourth.

From a state of utter shock in seeing incomplete facilities and uninhabitable living quarters, the visiting delegations have recovered to praise the efforts of the authorities in the past few days. Their security concerns have also been taken care of, and there is a festive mood prevailing at the Games Village, which was visited by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday.

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