Kolkata: With monsoon rains bringing the temperature down, hundreds of sports enthusiasts hit the streets here Sunday cheering the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay that saw the participation of past and present sporting stalwarts.
Indian soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia and former cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly were among a galaxy of sports stars who took part in the relay that began from the gates of the magnificent Victoria Memorial, constructed by then India’s British rulers as a tribute to Queen Victoria in 1921. It is now a museum and a prime tourist attraction of the city.
Hundreds of school children in colourful attire waved at the celebrities as West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan flagged off the relay and handed over the baton to the sporting heroes.
The baton, which has already traversed several parts of India, then passed from one player to another and finally Bhutia started running with it as a large number of security personnel virtually ringed him.
“It feels great to be here,” said Ganguly.
Asian Games double gold winner athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, ace swimmer Bula Chaudhury, former soccer greats P.K. Banerjee and Chuni Goswamai and hockey Olympian Gurbux Singh were among 38 sports personalities who carried the baton on the relay route.
Leading actors of the Bengali film industry Rituparana Sengupta, Dev and Subhasree were also present and seemed bubbling with enthusiasm as the relay began after the crowd danced to the tune of folk and fusion music.
Joining in the gala, a band of Eastern Frontier Rifles mesmerised the audience with their soothing tunes.
“It’s a wonderful experience to be a part of such a grand ceremony,” said Rituparana.
The Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton arrived in Kolkata Sunday afternoon from Agartala and was received with much fanfare at the NSC Bose International Airport by state sports minister Kanti Ganguly.
The baton was then put in an open jeep accompanied by famed sportspersons like former soccer star Tulsidas Balaram, athletes Soma Biswas and Sikdar.