| Urmila Matondkar at the opening ceremony of the Afro-Asian Games on Friday. (PTI)
Hyderabad, Oct. 27: The tottering Afro-Asian Games could have done with four legs to stand on.
But an annual two-day race of buffaloes has taken away what little crowd the Games were attracting, four days into the event.
Though the government at first denied the organisers permission, it retracted when it decided to give the 12,000 delegates at the Games a fun time.
The Hyderabad Yadav Sangh, an association of city milkmen and the organiser, was allowed to lure the delegates to the Charminar towards which 25-odd buffaloes charged from Narayanaguda in the heart of the city today.
The residents thanked their luck that the two-decade-old race was allowed because most found the Games inaccessible. “Because of security problems at the Games, the traditional race has been favoured by many,” said Suryaprakash Reddy, a cloth merchant at Lal Darwaza, which falls along the race route.
Faced with chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu’s anger at the thin attendance at the Rs 22-crore Games, government officials tried to blame Diwali.
But residents blamed the heavy security instead. Wrestler Prabhu, one of whose buffaloes ran the race, said people “enjoyed the race more than going to the Games for which they had to walk long distances”. He was referring to the sanitised region beginning 2 km from the Games venue at the Balayogi stadium, 20 km from the city, which was out of bounds for all vehicles. The stadium could be approached only on foot.
The government in its bid to ensure foolproof security had barred many people from the inaugural ceremony, attended by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, where film stars Urmila Matondkar and Mahima Chaudhary performed.
Officials, however, appeared to be making last-minute amends when they slashed ticket rates by Rs 50 for the India-Pakistan hockey match, that took place at 8 this evening at the Goshamahal stadium in the city. They even advanced the daily “bada khana” or government-sponsored dinner for delegates by an hour from 8 pm to accommodate the hockey match.
With four more days to go for the Games to end, buses, too, were pressed into service to take people to the venue.
Naidu, who is keen to bag the 2010 Commonwealth Games, has left no stone unturned to make the international event a success.
The municipal corporation has put up 8 by 8 feet electronic screens at major city spots such as Indira Park, NTR Stadium and the police control room at Public Garden for live relays. Naidu himself has told officials to bring in students and party workers by the busloads from the districts.
He would not be pleased with Yadav Sangh chief Satyanarayan Yadav and member Parameswar Yadav who fielded five buffaloes from the 500 maintained at their three-storeyed air-conditioned complex in the city.