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Superstars to shine at Games, if not stars

Calcutta: The 32nd National Games, scheduled to be held in Hyderabad from December 13 to 22, will present superb contrast of stars. While it was learnt Thursday that Calcutta’s Busan Asian Games stars Saraswati Saha and Soma Biswas may not put in their best, the organisers have managed to add enough sparkle otherwise.

Take a long breath: The Master of ceremonies at the sporting extravaganza will be one Amitabh Bachchan! The Games will be opened by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam! The Games’ closing ceremony will have Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee! That is over and above the presence of Bollywood stars throughout the Games.

Soma Biswas has decided to distance herself from her prime event, the heptathlon, and even the relays. She wants to run the 100m hurdles in Hyderabad. “I need rest, and a break from the exhausting heptathlon routine,” she said Thursday.

Saraswati said: “I expect to take part in both the 100m and the 200m in Hyderabad, but I have a pain in my waist and that will be the deciding factor.” It means her participation in the National Games remains uncertain.

Soma and Saraswati, who were feted by employers Eastern Railway (as also was boxer Mohammed Ali Qamar and swimmer Akbar Ali Mir), spoke their minds later.

With the Railways unlikely to field a contingent (generally only the Services have special entry), both Soma and Saraswati will be turning out for Bengal.

Ali Qamar, Manchester Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, though, said he was concentrating on the Afro-Asian Games, that very elusive event. The National Games experience will come in handy in between, he said.

Asian age-group 200m backstroke gold winner Mir said, apart from the National Games, he is also preparing for the SAF Games and the Afro-Asian. That makes the National Games a stepping stone. Mir has been the only Indian swimmer after the Khajan Singh era who has the potential to win medals at international meets.

Eastern Railway general manager Sunil Sengupta handed over salvers to the star sportspersons at the felicitation. He said later that it was sad that cricket seemed to be the only sponsor-generating sport. “Even stars like Biswas and Saha and Qamar, fail to draw the interest of the sponsors. Why should that be'” he asked.

The Eastern Railway tent was full of almost all the special talent that Eastern Railway has. The athletes, the cricket team, the swimmers, the waterpolo players, the boxers, et al.

It represented a major section of sportspersons from around the country, especially this zone. He hinted at the possibility that railway teams could be in friendlies with other teams, say from PSCB or Services.

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