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PT Usha declines last-minute invite

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: June 10, 2004 13:55 IST
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Sprint queen P T Usha, whose name was a last-minute inclusion in the list of participants for the prestigious Olympic Torch relay in New Delhi, declined to travel to the capital for the event.

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"I do confirm that Usha has received a written invitation on behalf of the Indian Olympic Association but it came only last night," V Srinivas, Usha's husband, told over the phone from his village in Kerala on Thursday morning.

Usha was not available for comment.

"She is not at home and would not be available for the next couple of hours. Two days ago Suresh Kalmadi, president of the IOA and Lalit Bhanot, secretary, Amateur Athletics Association of India, spoke to Usha and invited her to join the relay. This invitation came only after Usha told the media that she had not been called. She is naturally disappointed and feels hurt about it," he said.

Asked why is she not travelling to Delhi now that she has been invited, Srinivas said Usha could not have made it on time because the nearest airport is a three-hour drive from their village. "Even if she had caught the morning flight, it would taken her only up to Mumbai. Besides, she is married now and cannot travel alone," he said.

Flying Sikh Milkha Singh and former captains of the Indian hockey team Ajitpal Singh, Zafar Iqbal and Aslam Sher Khan expressed surprise at Usha's omission.

"They should have prepared the list of top 30 athletes and sportspersons and then sent them the invitations instead of accommodating people who live in and around Delhi. How can they forget a name like P T Usha?" Milkha asked.

"I feel that even cricketers should not have been invited for the event leave alone inviting film stars and people from the cultural field. When there is a film awards function, have you ever heard of an Arjuna awardee being invited there," said an angry Ajitpal.

Athletes, cricketers, film stars and persons from the classical music world will carry the Torch from the Qutub Minar to IIT gate and turn right from the underbridge and then take a left turn to come on Khel Gaon Marg - venue of the 1982 Asian Games. They would then proceed straight to Lodhi Road and pass in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and reach Red Fort via Pragati Maidan, Ring Road, I G Stadium and Shanti Van.

At around round 5.30 pm the Torch-bearers will head for National stadium via Jama Masjid, Darya Ganj, Delhi gate, Connaught Place, Vijay Chowk, Rajpath and end their run at National Stadium.

"We are going to deploy about 4000 police personnel all along the route from various branches of Delhi police. We will have the local policemen from the various thanas from where the relay race would pass, in addition to traffic policemen and security officials from the VIP security branch," S K Kains, special commissioner security, told

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi