Bhaichung refuses to be part of Beijing Olympic torch run

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Gangtok, Mar 31 (UNI) Indian soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia has refused to be a part of the relay run of the Olympic torch ceremony for the Beijing Olympics slated for April 17 in New Delhi, sympathizing with the Tibetan community and their cause.

Bhaichung's home state, Sikkim, has a sizeable population of Tibetan community members living in exile.

Bhutia, also the striker of Mohun Bagan, had been invited by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), about three weeks back, to carry the torch in New Delhi on April 17.

An invitation letter had earlier been faxed to him by Suresh Kalmadi, the president of the IOA.

In a reply addressed to the IOA president, Bhaichung has refused the invitation citing that he sympathised with the Tibetan cause.

Speaking to the media in Sikkim over phone today Bhaichung confirmed his non-participation in the Olympic torch relay which will pass through the national capital, Delhi.

''I sympathise with the Tibetan and their cause'' was all Bhaichung had to say about his refusal. He declined to elaborate on the topic apart from informing that he had written to the IOA on his refusal.

It has been learnt that there were no such requests made to Bhutia by the Tibetan community members unlike the requests made to Aamir Khan. Bhutia's decision was made on his own after seeing the plight and the solidarity of the Tibetans.

New Delhi is hosting the Olympic torch relay for the third time in succession. The Beijing Olympics torch relay, originally to pass through the financial capital of the country, will now pass through the national capital.

Bhaichung's home state Sikkim also has a sizeable population of the Tibetan community who have been living in exile. Recently, Tibetan youths from the Northeast, led by the Northeast Zonal Tibetan youth Congress, had marched to Rangpo in a bid to enter the state and make a bid to enter the Tibet Autonomous region of China through Nathula and join the protestors in Tibet. The attempt was called off after the Dalai Lama sent an emissary asking them to withdraw the indefinite fast and the attempt to cross over into Sikkim.

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