IOA left embarassed by Sachin's pull-out; cites IPL as reason

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New Delhi, Apr 16 (UNI) A red faced IOA today tried to take cover behind the Indian Premier League (IPL) for batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar's last minute pull-out from the tomorrow's Olympic Torch relay here citing prior commitments as the reason.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi said,''I spoke to Sachin Tendulkar and he opted out because he has an IPL meeting tomorrow so he will be busy there.'' He further added that Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi will not be a part of the relay because he will be out of station while Sunil Gavaskar too, will be busy with his IPL engagements.

Even the withdrawal of so many celebrities and athletes from the torch bearers' list, Kalmadi seemed all at ease saying, ''There is no problem if somebody has pulled out, there are many other sportspersons who will be taking part in the relay.'' He also responded to newly appointed Sports Minister MS Gill's statement that only sportspersons should be included in the torch relay while celebrities and politicians should be kept out.

''According to the Olympic charter, people from all walks of life should be included amongst the torch bearers.

''People who dedicated their career and those who uphold the Olympic movement can not be ignored either,'' he added.

However, the IOA president was at a loss for words when asked about some of the basic details about the torch relay which is less than 24 hours away.

''I do not know when will the torch arrive in India and have no idea when will it be held tomorrow,'' Kalmadi said with a grin on his face.

The torch, however, is expected to arrive here after midnight and will be held by 70 eminent personalities in a 2.5 km long route.

A relaxed looking Kalmadi also claimed that there were no concerns over security and the precautions that have been taken ahead of tomorrow's run are routine exercises but added that they are also prepared for any eventualities.

''We have taken normal security measures. We don't want the scenes of Paris and London to be repeated here.

''National Olympic Committees from all over the world are looking at us and I assure that the torch will be held high,'' he said.

Kalmadi also justified the route for tomorrow's Olympic Torch relay which has already been trimmed to 2.5 kms due to security concerns.

''The run will start from Rashtrapati Bhawan and will end at the India Gate. It is an iconic route so we have chosen Raj Path for this prestigious event,'' he informed.

The IOA also released the names of 70 torchbearers which includes athletes like Anju Boby George, Leander Paes, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, actors Amir Khan, Sagarika Ghatge any many others.

In the whole debate Kalmadi failed to explain that how will the IOA accomodate 70 torchbeares over a distance of mere 2.5 kms.

UNI RAR AB KN1945

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