The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Breach of protocol to bring Sonia to Games

Guwahati, Jan. 21: The 33rd National Games was sucked into another controversy today with the organisers announcing that Sonia Gandhi would inaugurate the event rather than President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Minister and government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that a departure from convention did not mean disrespect to either the President or the Prime Minister. He said the Indian Olympic Association’s manual, which specifies that the honour of declaring the National Games open belongs to either of the two, was not being ignored entirely.

“The Prime Minister is coming for the closing ceremony instead of the inauguration. In any case, the IOA manual is not supposed to be followed in toto…it is not statutory. The police services manual stipulates that the nameplate of a policeman should always be worn horizontally on the chest, but it often hangs loose on the pocket of the uniform. How many policemen are dismissed for this'” Sarma asked. A.S.V. Prasad, the IOA official on deputation as technical consultant to the organising committee, sat silently beside Sarma.

The President was expected to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony and Sonia one of the special invitees to either the opening or the closing ceremony. The governing body meeting of the Assam Olympic Association ostensibly decided last week to invite the UPA chairperson to inaugurate the Games, postponed twice for various reasons.

Sarma said event management company Wizcraft would make the opening and closing ceremonies a “spectacular sy-nthesis of the culture and heritage of Assam, the Northeast and the rest of the country”.

Giant television screens would be installed in public places across the capital city for people to enjoy the live telecast of the opening and closing ceremonies at the 30,000-capacity Indira Gandhi Stadium. Singer Zubeen Garg will be one of the attractions.

Wizcraft representative Ajay Rao said singer-composer-lyricist Bhupen Hazarika was unlikely to perform due to “personal problems”, but the company was trying to persuade him to change his mind.

On whether the budget of a little over Rs 4 crore would be sufficient for a show better than that at the last National Games in Hyderabad — nearly Rs 15 crore was spent there — Sarma said: “Wizcraft has promised us a better show than Hyderabad or anywhere in the country for the price they quoted while making their bid.”

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