12th South Asian Games: Krishna Poonia, Baichung Bhutia to run with torch during opening ceremony

The opening ceremony will start at 5pm, and PM is expected to declare the Games open at 5:30pm.

12th South Asian Games: Krishna Poonia, Baichung Bhutia to run with torch during opening ceremony

Guwahati: Commonwealth Games champion Krishna Poonia and former football captain Bhaichung Bhutia will be among a few past and current top sportspersons of the country to run with the torch inside the main stadium during the opening ceremony of the 12th South Asian Games here on Friday.

London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang's name has also been mentioned to be among the 7-8 sportspersons to do the honours at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium when the Games will be declared open by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Former long jumper Anju Booby George, the country's lone medallist in a track and field World Championships, is the other name said to be among the torch bearers.

But Narang's availability is yet to be confirmed as shooting competitions begin only on February 10. Well-known former Assamese sportspersons Bhogeswar Barua (athletics) and Monalisa Barua (table tennis) are also said to among the select group to run with the torch which has already arrived here after its relay legs in various capitals of Northeastern states.

Discus thrower Poonia, who is the only individual Indian woman gold medallist in Commonwealth Games, has left NIS Patiala for New Delhi en route Guwahati.

Bhutia has been Indian football's posterboy for many years as team captain before his retirement in 2011 and he has been one of the most recognisable faces among sportspersons in the Northeast.

Games Chief Executive Officer Injeti Srinivas told reporters at a media conference that 7-8 sportspersons, including current and past players, will run. He refused to the divulge the names, only saying that the ceremony will be a glittering one.

He said the ceremony, which will start at 5pm, will last about two hours and 45 minutes. The PM is expected to declare the Games open at 5:30pm.

"The opening ceremony will be a glittering one. It will last for around two hours and 45 minutes. It will be a well planned and well rehearsed event and we have put a lot of effort but at the same time managed to do it in a tight budget," Srinivas said at a chaotic press conference at the Organising Committee headquarters.

"There will be two parts of the ceremony, one will be the sports part where we will have the march past by the athletes, oath taking and torch relay inside the stadium. Around 7-8 current and past sportspersons will do the honours. I can't disclose more than this at this moment," he said.

Regarding the lighting of the Games flame, the Sports Authority of India Director said, "It will be done in a very different way and we will use technology."

Srinivas was grilled by a big contingent of the media and the conference room was choked-a-bloc with very little space to move around. The scribes pointed out the deficiencies in the run-up to the Games, including lack of information for the media and about the near non-functional Games website. They also brought up the issue of contingents of some countries being left stranded at the airport here after a tiring journey from their home nations.

A defensive Srinivas admitted that there were hiccups and that things could have been done in a better way. But he said in the overall picture, the organisers have done their best considering a small budget and lack of time.

"We did not have a big budget and also we had to do all these in a compressed time period of 2-3 months. I am not mentioning these as excuses. I admit there were hiccups and there was always a room for improvement. But overall I feel there is no reason that these Games should not be successful," he said amid counter questions from journalists during the conference which at various stages became chaotic.

Some scribes also complained about the Main Press Center at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium not having the wi-fi system just a day before the beginning of the Games and Communications department director D J Narain said that the MPC will be fully functional only on Saturday due to security reasons connected to the PM's presence during the opening ceremony.

Narain also said that there will be strict checking of mediapersons coming to cover the opening ceremony and their equipments will be checked thoroughly. He also said that there would be severe restrictions on the parking of vehicles near the main stadium during the opening ceremony.