Chandigarh: Despite the presence of legendary sprinter Milkha Singh, cricketer Kapil Dev and Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra, the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games received a cold response here on Saturday.
The baton entered the City in the late afternoon from Army’s Western Command headquarters at Chandimandir in Panchkula, near here.
Tight security arrangements had been made here in view of the baton’s arrival, with paramilitary forces also being deployed along the route.
The relay route of over 1 km from the Matka Chowk in Sector 17 to the cricket stadium at Sector 16 was decorated with colourful flags, but there was hardly any public presence along the route.
Inside the stadium, the main venue of the function to receive the baton, some people, mostly youngsters and school children, had gathered to witness the baton’s arrival, but most of the stadium was empty.
However, senior officials of the Chandigarh Administration, Army personnel along with their families and police personnel besides the Bhangra and cultural performers were present in strength.
From the Matka Chowk, the baton was received by Milkha Singh, who carried it for some distance before it was handed over to other athletes including former hockey international Rajinder Singh Sr.
Inside the stadium, India’s only cricket World Cup winning captain, Kapil Dev received it before handing it over to Olympic gold winning shooter Abhinav Bindra.
“I am very happy to have had the honour of receiving the baton in my own city. It’s a rare honour that has been bestowed to me,” Milkha Singh said.
Milkha, also known as the ‘Flying Sikh’ had specially reached the City two days back from United States to receive the baton.
“I hope the presence of baton in our city will inspire youngsters and they will do the country proud,” he said.
Kapil and Abhinav were also equally happy to receive the baton in their own city.
“I am very happy to receive the baton. I hope the Games will be a great success and India will put up a better performance as they also have the home advantage,” said Kapil.
Bindra said for him participating in today’s event was a “great honour”.
“I am sure that India will do well at the upcoming Games,” he said.
At the stadium, a cultural function was organised, with military band playing different tunes.
‘Bhangra’ troupes also entertained the handful of people that were present on the occasion.
The QBR had started its journey from Chandimandir in Panchkula, near here, accompanied by a cavalcade of vehicles.
Earlier it had travelled through various places in Punjab and Jammu before it reached Chandimandir in Haryana’s Panchkula, on July 1.
On Sunday, the Himachal Pradesh Government has planned a rousing reception to baton when it will enter the State from Mehatpur in Una district.
Earlier, Pakistan’s Olympic Association President Lt Gen Syed Arif Hassan handed over the baton to Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi, who is also the chairman of the organising committee of Commonwealth Games, at the Attari border in Amritsar district on June 25.
The baton has travelled more than 170,000 km through nearly 70 Commonwealth countries before arriving in India for the Games to be held at New Delhi between October 3-14.