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Prayer for rain relief on Games eve

Guwahati, Feb. 8: Two postponements, numerous hurdles and an Ulfa-induced security scare later, the stage is finally set for the 33rd National Games to begin tomorrow. If only the rain gods would understand.

Dressed in a grey tracksuit, chief minister Tarun Gogoi looked every bit the sportsman — he certainly is competitive in politics — as he flagged off the last lap of the torch relay here this morning. But like the participants and the organisers, he appeared a little downcast because of the fickle weather.

Indeed, the elaborately planned opening ceremony — Mumbai-based event management company Wizcraft has promised a grand show — is now at the mercy of the weather.

“We should all pray for a smooth and safe Games, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and affiliation. We have encountered a lot of hurdles and cleared the same. I am hopeful our collective prayers will be answered,” Gogoi said before the torch rally.

Gogoi’s entourage of ministerial colleagues — Himanta Biswa Sarma, Rockybul Hussain, Pradyut Bordoloi, Gautam Roy, Gautam Bora and Ripun Bora — echoed his sentiments.

Hours later, this time accompanied by Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi, the chief minister repeated his plea for prayers.

“We are praying for the weather to improve. Please do the same,” he said.

Kalmadi patted Assam for organising the “best ever National Games” in terms of participation and infrastructure, never mind the fact that the cream of athletics and other events will not be seen in action. Ace archer Jayanta Talukdar, who is from Assam but represents Jharkhand, boxer M.C. Marykom and weightlifter Kunjarani Devi of Manipur are in the list of stars who have chosen to skip the Games.

Brushing the negatives under the carpet, a buoyant Kalmadi even thanked Ulfa for withdrawing its call for a boycott of the event.

There was also a sign of optimism at the Met office, but only just. A senior official of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Borjhar said Guwahati would have a partly cloudy sky tomorrow with a possible burst of rain around noon, but the weather might improve. “The weather system associated with the western disturbance prevalent in the region is now moving away and its intensity is also decreasing. The weather is improving and could improve further,” he said.

Then came the damper. The official said the “western disturbance” was hovering over west Pakistan and its adjoining areas, and might reach the Northeast after five days. “The movement of the system will be known after two to three days.”

Apart from the weather forecast, there was bad news for train travellers. Warnings from police about bombs being planted on rail tracks forced Northeast Frontier Railway to suspend all train services between Guwahati and Rangia stations for 36 hours.

NF Railway’s chief public relations officer T. Rabha said movement of trains between these stations would remain suspended from 6 pm today till 6 am on Saturday.

Rabha said the decision was taken on the advice of the government to ensure the safety of rail passengers “in view of strong threat perceptions”.

All trains bound for Guwahati via Rangia will be terminated at that station. Similarly, trains coming via Goalpara will be terminated at Azara.

“Therefore, outgoing trains from Guwahati via these two routes will be either cancelled or regulated accordingly. Further information will be made available at stations and through the media,” Rabha said.

The police received information about Ulfa’s plans while interrogating some suspected militants. The bombs were timed to explode either today or tomorrow, sources said.

Yesterday, movement of trains was suspended between Guwahati and Kamakhya stations from 2.30 till 4 pm.

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