Agra: Splendid glimpses of the Taj Mahal and an array of Indian crafts promise a treat for Commonwealth Games (CWG) guests who come visiting. The city is all decked up as a special train from Delhi is set to chug in with athletes and officials here everyday from Wednesday.
"The athletes and officials arriving by the special Shatabdi Express will be given a warm welcome with garlands and tilak. Elaborate arrangements have been made for them," Anoop Srivastav, the Uttar Pradesh tourism assistant director, told IANS.
Arrangements have also been made for the bulk purchase of entry tickets to the 17th century marble monument to love, the Taj Mahal, he said.
"The Mall Road, with a fresh coat of paint and its green cover all spruced up, presents a better profile of Agra city," said Rajiv Tiwai, convenor of a join committee of a dozen tourism bodies of the city.
The Shatabdi Express will bring around 600 sportspersons and officials to Agra every day. The Indian railways are fully geared to make the travelling experience unforgettable for the CWG guests, divisional railway manager Devesh Mishra said.
The first run of the special train from Delhi is scheduled for Wednesday morning. It will return around 5.30 p.m. the same day.
"The visitors will be taken to the Taj Mahal and the Shilpgram Complex where a special tourist festival will be held starting Monday evening," Srivastav said.
More than 250 stalls are being put up for the craftsmen and handicrafts sellers from all over India, said a manager of the complex. The theme of the festival is the Commonwealth Games and all the decor and props in the festival reflect the spirit of the Games.
"The athletes will have an opportunity to spend at least an hour in the festival complex, make purchases and get a glimpse of India," Srivastav said.
Handicrafts` stalls from many states have been put up and various cultural programmes have been organised for the visitors in the festival. Artists will entertain visitors with folk dances and songs, Srivastav said.
After visiting the Taj Mahal and the festival, the CWG guests will have lunch at hotel Jaypee Palace here.
"The guests will be in the hotel for around two-and-a-half hours. They will have a buffet lunch. The leisure mall of the hotel has been specially decked up with Commonwealth Games theme," hotel vice president Rajiv Narain told IANS.
"There will be folk dancers to entertain the guests. We are trying to create an ambience that they will remember for long."
The district authorities have carried out rehearsals and beefed up security all along the route from Agra Cantonment railway station to the Taj Mahal, a distance of about eight km.
Around 6,700 athletes and officials have made their way to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games from Oct 3-14.