Cross-border camaraderie as CWG baton arrives

Attari (Amritsar), June 25 (IANS) The Queen’s Baton Relay for the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) entered India amidst a carnival atmosphere at the Attari border outpost with Pakistan to mark the start of the 100-day countdown for the Games.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal accompanied by state Governor Shivraj Patil and other senior leaders were present at the Wagah-Attari border, some 30 km from Amritsar, to extend a rousing welcome to the baton that had completed its 340-day, 190,000 km journey through 70 Commonwealth countries.

Badal, who began his address in English, soon switched over to Punjabi.

‘Punjab is happy to host this event and I would like to speak in Punjabi language. Punjab state exists in both sides of the border (India and Pakistan) and Punjabis of these two neighbouring countries share similar kind of lifestyle and food and we all are proud of it,’ said Badal.

Pakistan Olympics Association chief Syed Arif Hassan gave the Queen’s Baton to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief and Comonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi.

‘I am very happy that the baton is making its entering into India via Attari border in Punjab as this state has produced many prominent sportspersons. Moreover Amritsar is a holy city where we have Golden Temple. It augurs well for the baton journey in India,’ said Kalmadi.

Pakistan Punjab governor Suleman Taseer accompanied the baton to India and he shared the dais with other Indian dignitaries.

‘This baton carry the message of friendship to India from Pakistan. We all are hopeful that our relations will improve and flourish. Pakistan Zindabad – India Zindabad,’ said Taseer.

Even CWG federation chairman Mike Fennell touched upon the significance of both Punjabs while delivering his brief speech.

‘I am very delighted to be here on this historic day. There was a great reception to the baton coming from Pakistan to India. It symbolises harmony, inspiration and anticipation,’ said Fennell.

Hundreds of people, officials and mediapersons gathered here for the arrival of the baton.

Famous Indian Sufi singers Wadali brothers and Pakistan-based singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan gave a mesmerizing performance at the border.

Punjabi bhangra and gidda dancers, performers from Rajasthan and other states, and military bands added to the festive atmosphere at the border checkpost as the baton arrived.