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Beijing bids farewell to Olympics, London beckons

BEIJING, Aug 24: Beijing tonight shimmered with all its splendour to drop curtains on a magnificent Olympic Games, raising the bar to a dizzy height that might prove difficult for subsequent hosts London to emulate.

The 16-day razzmatazz got a befitting signing off and when London Mayor Boris Johnson was handed over the Olympic flag by his Beijing counterpart Guo Jinlong, the onus was passed on to the British capital to match in 2012, if bettering is impossible, the benchmark set in Beijing.

From organisational point of view, Beijing dished out a simply flawless Olympics to silence its malevolent critics, who cribbed about pollution, water contamination, traffic, food and anything and everything.

China's might also found an expression in the medal tally with the hosts leading the chart, miles ahead of its American and Russian counterparts in terms of gold medals.

India too had reasons to cherish the event as their Beijing campaign yielded an unprecedented three individual medals.

At the end of 16 days of intense, no-holds-barred rivalry among the best in the business for global bragging rights in 302 events, Beijing anointed two sports icons in American bionic aqua man Michael Phelps and Jamaican Flying Machine Usain Bolt.

Phelps ruled the pool and sunk every existing record to swim into history books while the brash, cocky Bolt left the world behind to emerged as the fastest man on earth and still could afford the time to look back and mock at lesser mortals.

And for those who doubted sport's ability to dissolve border and bury hostility, the sight of Georgian and Russian athletes forgetting the political turmoil back home and hugging each other was an eye opener.

If the 8th August opening ceremony was a promise made, tonight's closing ceremony was fulfillment of the same promise as Beijing had a night to remember.

The pre-ceremony was a fun-filled affair with Fuwa, the mascot, as the central theme.

In a way, the humorous segment signalled lowering of the guard and letting down of the hair at the end of fortnight long intense competition.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge made an appearance after scintillating pyrotechnics dazzled the Bird's Nest.

Drum players then took the centre stage and it was surreal to see some 200 bouncing and flying men run and roll over the stadium.

Next entered the flag bearers of the 204 participating nations, with the Indian tri-colour in Vijender's able hands, the same fists which earned his country its first boxing medal in the greatest sporting extravaganza.

Marathon victory ceremony intercepted the event, on the other side of which organising committee President Liu Qi and Rogge addressed the huge gathering before the Olympic flag was hoisted and Olympic hymns recited.

Mayors of Beijing and London entered the stage for the flag handover ceremony, which was followed by an eight-minute cultural performance heralding the start of the countdown to the London Games.

This segment featured British icons, including soccer star David Beckham, singing sensation Leona Lewis and legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

After Lewis and Page left the stage, Beckham appeared along with a violinist, a cellist and a child who handed the ball to the former England captain, whose trademark cross vanished into the sea of athletes.

Finally, the flame was extinguished but fireworks painted numerous pictures on Beijing's night sky and six singers passionately lent their voice for "Beijing, Beijing, I love Beijing", followed by a spectacular circle dance before the razzmatazz came to a glorious end.

First boxing medal for India. And a bronze in wrestling after 56 years

BEIJING, Aug 20: India's fledgling Olympic campaign on Wednesday received a sensational boost with unheralded grappler Sushil Kumar clinching a bronze medal and boxer Vijender Kumar assuring himself of at least a bronze to give the country a record three medals for the first time ever.

A star was born on Wednesday with Vijender packing enough punch in the ring to assure himself of an Olympic medal, the hue of which would be determined by the outcome of his semifinal match on Friday.

Boxer Vijender Singh ensured another medal for India at the Beijing Olympics when he outpunched Carlos Gongora of Ecuador in the quarterfinal of the 75kg category bout today.

The Bhiwani pugilist, one of India's best medal hopes, was ahead in all the four rounds and clinched the bout 9-4.

The Ecuadorean had no answer to his rival's flurry of punches and trailed 1-4 in the second round.

The Haryana boxer shunned extravagance and clung on to his hard-earned lead to outsmart Carlos Gongora of Ecuador 9-4 and set up a semifinal clash with formidable Cuban and two-time Pan American champion Emilio Correa Bayeaux.

Having seen the plight of Akhil Kumar and Jitender, who came agonisingly close to win their Olympic medal, Vijender refrained from playing to the gallery and maintained a dour defence which Gongora simply could not breach.

Vijender will now take on 2007 Pan American games gold medallist Emilio Correa Dayeaux of Cuba in the semifinal on Friday.

Emilio's father Emilio Correa Vaillant was the gold medallist in the 1972 Munich Olympics in 69-kg category.

Unheralded Sushil Kumar rose from obscurity to find his rightful place in the history of Indian sports when he won the bronze medal in men's 66kg freestyle category at the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday.

Sushil's campaign seemed nearly over when he lost his first round battle against eventual silver medallist Andriy Stadnik but repechage provided him a ray of hope and the Indian proved simply irresistible as he beat three grapplers on the trot to win the bronze.

Down in the dumps after his opening round defeat, Sushil came up with an incredible show, beating Doug Schwab (USA), Albert Batyrov (Belarus) and finally the losing semifinalist Leonid Spiridonov (Kazakhstan) in the repechage rounds to earn his slice of history.

Sushil thus became the second Indian wrestler after K D Jadhav who won a bronze in the 1952 Helsinki Games to win an Olympic medal.

Incidentally, in the 2006 Doha Asian Games also, Sushil had beaten Leonid to win the bronze.

Bindra clinches India's first individual Olympic gold

Abhinav BindraBEIJING, Aug 11: World champion Abhinav Bindra clinched India's first ever individual gold medal at the Olympics, winning 10m air rifle event at the Beijing Games here today.

The 25-year-old, who qualified fourth for the event, shot an overall score of (596+104.5) 700.5 in a thrilling finale which went right down to the last shot.

Bindra's historic feat makes him India's first-ever individual gold medallist, bettering the silver medal feat of double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in Athens 2004.

"He is the best shooter in the world and I think his is a morale boosting feat for everyone in the contingent," a jubilant Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi said after Bindra's win.

"We are all very happy. He is a very hardworking athlete. The entire shooting contingent is celebrating. We are very proud of him and it is just the beginning," national coach Sunny Thomas said.

"Abhinav is a very calm and composed guy and doesn't get very excited," Thomas added.

Bindra, a Khel Ratna awardee, had earlier won the gold medal in 2002 Commonwealth Games in the pairs event and silver in the individual event.

The silver in the event went to Chinese Zhu Qinan (699.7) while Finland's Henri Hakkinen (699.4) had to be content with a bronze.

Lok Sabha Speaker congratulates Abhinav Bindra

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 11: The Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr Somnath Chatterjee conveyed his heartiest congratulations to Abhinav Bindra who won a gold medal for India in the 10-metre Air Rifle Shooting Competition at Beijing Olympics.

"Abhinav Bindra has made us all proud", said Mr Chatterjee said. He also wished all success to the Indian contingent at the Olympics.

Games show China's strength, mask fragility

BEIJING, Aug 7: "Faster, higher, stronger" is the message from China that will resonate at the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday and during its battle with the United States for global sporting supremacy.

The Games are about much more than sport, of course.

For one analyst, the picture of China's Communist Party basking in national triumph amid glittering stadiums could be a "Sputnik moment" -- akin to the emerging Soviet Union's stunning launch of a satellite in 1957 - one that, for many in the West, will inspire as much fear as admiration.

And yet that picture glosses over the fragility of a nation beset by pollution, energy strains, social unrest and rural poverty, all of which were laid bare in the run-up to the Games.

These have become party-spoiling leitmotifs of the Beijing Games story, along with condemnation of China's human rights record, anger over its restrictions on media and Western doubts about its will to reform and act as a responsible global power.

"Whatever the longer-term implications of the 2008 Olympics, what has transpired thus far bears little resemblance to Beijing's dreams of Olympic glory," U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations senior fellows Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal wrote in a recent paper, "China's Olympic Nightmare".

"Rather than basking in the admiration of the world, China is beset by internal protests and international condemnation."

China's rapidly expanding economy has become a crucial locomotive as recession looms around the globe. It is no longer the "sick man of Asia", and Beijing's Olympics will be an in-your-face confirmation.

"For China, this is the crystalisation of three decades of modernisation, a big show and tell, their big moment in the sun," said Victor Cha, head of Asian studies at Georgetown University in Washington, and a former White House adviser on Asia.

For all the dividends of China's burgeoning trade and investment links with the outside world, however, a 'rising China' is seen by much of the West as a threat.

The United States, in particular, is anxious about the regional ambitions of a country of 1.3 billion people whose military spending is rising sharply and shrouded in secrecy.

The world's superpower is also suspicious of the economic stakes that China is claiming in Africa and Latin America as it scours the earth for raw commodities, and it worries about Beijing's clout as a heavyweight holder of U.S. debt and its hefty share of US imports.

Drew Thompson, director of China studies at the Nixon Center in Washington, DC, said the spectacle of a modern and confident nation could bolster nationalistic pride among Chinese, fuelling anxieties abroad.

"That Sputnik moment is very much from a grassroots sense of how the scenes from Beijing are going to play out," he said.

"What's going to transmit are the buildings and what an impressive effort this is. This is not a tottering regime, this is not a basket case, and the Games are going to put that fact on full display."

An outpouring of patriotic fury earlier this year, directed at Western targets seen as sympathising with Tibetan riots and protests against Chinese rule, was evidence for many of the dark side of China's rise.

French goods were boycotted after protesters tried to grab the Olympic torch on its parade through Paris and some foreign journalists in Beijing were bombarded with hate mail.

"...what foreigners saw was not a rational, open and tolerant China stepping into the world, but rather a closed, aggressive and furious China stepping into the world," wrote Zhao Lingmin in a commentary in China's current affairs magazine South Breeze.

In the run-up to the Games, President Hu Jintao has sought to portray China as a "harmonious" country whose rise threatens no one, and the government has carried out education campaigns to discourage raucous shows of nationalism.

Cha noted that although the government sometimes manipulates outbursts of nationalism, it is a double-edged sword. "It's a very dangerous thing for the leadership," he said. "Today it will be directed against NBC for negative broadcasting about the Games, but tomorrow it could be directed against the leadership."

The flash of rioting in Tibet was followed by an earthquake in the province of Sichuan that killed at least 70,000, turning global disapproval to global sympathy overnight.

For Kerry Brown, senior fellow of the Asia Programme at the Chatham House think-tank in London, these two events -- in very different ways -- captured the fragility of modern China.

"This great economic juggernaut that scares and worries so many people outside China contains within it deep weaknesses and problems," he wrote on the website

He told Reuters that a chief weakness is deep-seated social inequality and poverty, particularly among the hundreds of millions of migrant workers "on whose sweat, blood and tears modern China is built" but who today are disenfranchised.

Such issues may be brushed under the red carpet at the Games but will re-emerge. The West will also demand that China use its influence to calm troublespots from Tibet to Sudan and Myanmar.

"The level of foreign expectations after the Games will get higher, not lower," said Cha. "People will be asking China to do more."

Beijing Olympic flame ends chaotic Paris journey

PARIS, April 7: The Beijing Olympic flame ended its chaotic relay journey through Paris Monday, marred by citywide protests against China's crackdown in Tibet that forced the torchbearers to take refuge in a bus.

The flame arrived in a bus escorted by around 30 police officers for a ceremony at the Charlety Stadium after its journey by foot was cut short half way to its final destination.

Moments after the Olympic torch set off from the Eiffel Tower, protests forced the organisers to extinguish the torch, and place the flame on an accompanying bus for safety.

The torchbearers were forced on and off the bus at least four times, until organisers finally cut short the relay, skipping a planned ceremony at Paris city hall.

The Olympic torch was lit again for a brief ceremony outside the stadium, in the presence of French swimming champion Christine Caron, and extinguished one last time at around 6 pm.

The Olympic flame itself, transported in a safe lantern, was taken away by several members of the Beijing Olympics organising committee.

From Paris the flame leaves on Monday night for the Americas, with stops planned in San Francisco on Wednesday and Buenos Aires on Friday, on the latest leg of a worldwide tour from Greece to Beijing.

Smooth relay of Olympic torch will be ensured: India

NEW DELHI, April 7: India has said it will ensure smooth passage of the Olympic flame with "respect and security" as discussions continued in the government on measures to provide foolproof protection.

With China worried over the India-leg of the torch relay because of presence of large number of Tibetans, top officials of the government are busy in chalking out the arrangements to ensure trouble-free event on 17th April.

China is also understood to have indicated that a team of its commandos will arrive in India a few days ahead of the torch relay and would provide the proximate security to the flame during its run on Rajpath.

"As far as the Government of India is concerned, we are committed to provide complete security to the Olympic Torch," Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said.

Asked about reports that China would be sending security personnel for the torch relay in New Delhi, Sharma said he had no knowledge about it but maintained that Indian government has given an assurance that it will take all measures to provide foolproof security.

"We are confident of ensuring the relay of the torch in India with respect and security. Our officers and security agencies are capable of providing complete security to the Olympic torch," he said.

The issue of torch security is understood to have figured in a meeting between Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta.

Sehwag hits fastest triple ton as India reaches 468 for one against SA

CHENNAI, March 28: A belligerent Virender Sehwag presided over a bowlers' bloodbath and blasted an unbeatean 309 as India responded emphatically to South Africa's massive first innings total in the first cricket Test in Chennai on Friday.

The dashing right-hander wielded his willow like a sword and cut the South African attack to ribbons during his 292-ball blitzkrieg that powered India to 468 for one at stumps on day three.

Sehwag thus equalled his career best score of 309, also the highest Test score by an Indian, which he had recorded against Pakistan in the 2004 Multan Test.

India now trail the visitors by 72 runs and Sehwag and Rahul Dravid (65) will return tomorrow to first wipe out the arrears and then establish a lead.

Sehwag's savage innings, the fastest triple century in the history of Test cricket, was studded with a staggering 41 fours and five sixes.

He bettered Matthew Hayden's 300 off 362 balls against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003-04.

Resuming on 82 for no loss this morning, Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer (73) gave no leeway to the South Africans and with the Delhi opener on song, Jaffer was content playing the second fiddle.

Sehwag reached his 14th century in his 92nd innings in style, hitting Jacques Kallis to long off boundary.

Jaffer, however, could not reach the ton that looked up for grabs and departed when Jacques Kallis caught him off Paul Harris.

Jaffer's sedate 166-ball knock included six hits to the fence beside a six and though he missed out on a personal milestone, the Mumbaikar had played his part in the 213-run opening stand with Sehwag.

Smiles on the South African faces, however, vanished soon as Sehwag went berserk. Once he neared 150, Sehwag looked in tremendous hurry and Morne Morkel bore the brunt of his belligerence in the 61st over when he was hit for three boundaries.

It was then Harris who incurred Sehwag's wrath and the spinner was hit for three successive boundaries as the batsman's strike rate exceeded 100.

At 193, Sehwag did what probably only he can and went for a six. Even though he did not connect the Makhaya Ntini delivery properly, the big flourish of the bat was enough to send it soaring over the long leg boundary for a six.

Ntini's next ball yielded three runs and Sehwag posted what entered the record book as the third quickest double-hundred in Test cricket that came off just 194 balls. He in fact took just 23 balls to reach 200 from 150.

Nathan Astle's 153-ball double century against England in the 2001-2 Christchurch Test remains the fastest, while Sehwag stood second in the chart for achieving the landmark in 182 balls against Pakistan in the 2005-6 Lahore Test.

Records kept falling by the wayside and Sehwag went on to post the highest individual score at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Earlier, the record stood against Sunil Gavaskar's name following the batting great's 236 against West Indies in 1983-84.

Even after Sehwag reached 200, there was no let up in South Africa's misery and the batsman took just 31 balls to complete his 250.

There was no signs of nerves even when he was nearing his 300. Then at 291, Sehwag stepped out to send a Harris delivery soaring over the sightscreen.

In the next over, an Ntini full toss was flicked for a single and Sehwag reached the 300-mark for the second time in his career, off just 278 balls.

Sehwag's batting pyrotechnics so dominated the proceedings that hardly anyone seemed to notice Dravid labouring his way to his 52nd Test half century.

Dravid was unbeaten on 65 after facing 181 balls and hitting eight fours.

Meanwhile, Ntini's reputation as a premier bowler took a beating on an unresponsive track and against an unforgiving Sehwag with the South African conceding 99 runs in his 18 overs of wicketless toil.

Harris did return with a wicket against his name but the left-arm spinner bled 141 runs in his 36 overs.

Brief scores:

South Africa 1st innings: 540

India 1st innings: 468 for one in 106 overs (V Sehwag 309 batting, W Jaffer 73, R Dravid 65 batting).

India pull off incredible win at Perth

PERTH, Jan 19: India recorded one of their most amazing Test triumphs overseas when they beat Australia by 72 runs in the thrilling third cricket Test to snap the champion team's record 16-match winning streak here on Saturday.

Set 413 to win a world record 17th Test in succession, the Australians were dismissed for 340 to allow the spirited visitors to reduce the margin to 2-1 in the four match series with one full day to spare.

Not many had given the Indians any hope at the WACA, regarded as the fastest pitch in the world, but Anil Kumble and his men came out firing on all cylinders to not only pull off a sensational victory but raise hopes of levelling the series.

The Indians celebrated wildly and hugged each other after R P Singh castled last man Shaun Tait, bringing an end to a dramatic Test which saw fortune fluctuating from one team to the other on the four days.

Viswanathan Anand is world champion

And in sports, India can boast of three world champions in the last 10 days - cricket in the 20-20 world cup, Pankaj Advani for billiards and now, Viswanathan Anand in chess.

Another victory that spells national pride. After a gap of nearly seven years, Viswanathan Anand is the world chess champion once again.

Vishwananthan Anand drew his last game against Peter Leko before he was crowned World Champion. His performance at the tournament was calculated and consistent, not losing a single game and finishing at the top nine points

This win not only reinstates Anand's dominance
in the sport, but also establishes his status as the World Number 1.

India lifts Twenty20 World Cup

Sept 24: India creates history by clinching the inaugural Twenty20 cricket World Cup with a breath-taking five-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in a summit showdown which saw fortunes fluctuating from one team to the other till the dying moments.

In a nail-biting contest, the young Indian team scored 157 for five and then held their nerves to wrap up the Pakistan innings for 152 with just three balls to spare to win their first major title in over two decades.

It was an incredible display by the Indians who relied on superb team work to not only maintain their all-win record against their bitter foes in World Cup matches but end a series of giant-killing acts in a blaze glory.

The large flag-waving gathering of Indians at the Wanderers burst into celebrations when Sreesanth caught a dangerous Misbah-ul-Haq off Joginder Sharma to bring an end to the Pakistan challenge.

The contest seemed to go out of India's hands in the 17th over when Misbah-ul-Haq clobbered Harbhajan Singh for three sixes but Mahendra Singh Dhoni's band of young warriors roared back in great style to eventually lift the coveted trophy and the winners' purse of US $ 49000.

Gautam Gambhir slammed a 54-ball 75 and Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten 30 but the big guns like Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to click when it mattered the most.

But the Indian bowlers responded to the challenge admirably by bowling their hearts out in the pulsating contest with Irfan Pathan (3-16) and R P Singh (3-27) playing a stellar role.

For Pakistan, Misbah-ul-Haq was the top scorer with a 38-ball 44 and Imran Nazir chipped in with 33 but their efforts were not enough to overhaul the Indian target.

The stunning victory not only added a glorious chapter to India's cricketing history but also made amends for the team's inglorious exit from the ODI World Cup in the West Indies six months ago.

Pakistan needed 13 runs off the last over bowled by Joginder Sharma who was clearly overawed by the enormity of the occasion. He started with a wide and followed it with a dot ball.

However, the next one went sailing into the sight screen as Misbah-ul-Haq hit his fourth six that drove India to despair.

And with just six needed off 4 balls, Misbah threatened to pilot Pakistan to a dream triumph all on his own. And yet, as it were, he went for a delicate chip over fine leg, a dangerous shot to play under the circumstances, didn't connect well enough for Sreesanth to take the most memorable catch of his career.

Pakistan were bowled out for 152 in 19.3 overs chasing India's 157 for 5. Misbah made 43 off 38 balls with 4 sixes.

And indeed it was the most sensational, thrilling end to a World Cup final. At one stage, Pakistan needed 35 off last 3 overs.

Tanvir Sohail then hit Sreesanth for two sixes in the 18th over before getting bowled off the last ball. It left Pakistan to get 20 runs off the last 2 overs with 2 wickets in hand.

It all boiled down to 13 in the last over and it witnesses a great finish.

RP Singh made early inroads for India and took 3 for 26 while Irfan Pathan's magical spell in the middle overs rocked Pakistan enablig him to finish with 3 for 16. Even Joginder Sharma did well to finish with 2 for 20.

RP Singh gave India a perfect start removing Mohammad Hafeez (1) and Kamran Akmal (0) off successive overs in the 1st and 3rd over of the innings but, in between, Imran Nazir did a lot of damage taking 21 runs off Sreesanth's first over. Hafeez was caught at first slip by Uthappa while Akmal played across and lost his leg stump.

Imran Nazir roughed up Sreesanth with his audacious stroke play in his very first over smashing him for two sixes and two fours.

The first ball went over cover for a four, the second ball went over mid-wicket for a six, the third ball again went for a six over third man and the 5th ball was whacked over point for another boundary.

Luckily for India, they got him out of the way in the sixth over when Robin Uthappa's direct hit from mid-off saw him short of the crease by inches.

Younis Khan became the fourth casualty in the innings when he holed out in the deep to Joginder Sharma for 24.

However, it was Irfan Pathan who really rocked the Pakistan innings in the middle overs when he dismissed captain Shoaib Malik (8) and big hitter Shahid Afridi (0) within a space of three deliveries.

Malik, who crawled to 8 off 17-balls went for a pull from outside the off stump and was picked at mid-wicket by Rohit Sharma. And when Shahid Afridi walked in, Pathan intimidated him with a first-ball bouncer that was called wide by the umpire.

However, the delivery had its effect on the batsman's mind and off the very next ball Afridi lokked to hit him out of the ground, didn't hit it well, and presented a skier to Sreesanth running in from long-off.

Pathan ran yards in his moment of reckoning and the whole team chased him to greet him while Shah Rukh Khan was seen whiltling in delight in the VIP stand.

At 78 for 6 after 12 overs, Pakistan needed 80 runs off 48 balls at 10 runs per over with just 4 wickets in hand.

And when Irfan Pathan bowled Yaseer Arafat in the 16th over, Pakistan needed 53 runs from 4 overs with just three wickets to go.

That was also when all the drama began when Misbah-ul-Haq hit three towering sixes off Harbhajan to engineer a heart-stopping finish. Irfan Pathan was named the Man of the Match.

Beijing mulls revision of 2008 Olympic torch relay route

BEIJING, Sept 23: The Beijing Olympic Games organisers are planning to make some changes to the planned route of the torch relay as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has cancelled the Taipei stop.

"The IOC has informed the Beijing Organising Committee of Olympic Games (BOCOG) that the torch relay will have to go ahead without the stop in Taipei. There are no possibilities of selecting a new city (to replace Taipei)," executive vice president of BOCOG Jiang said.

"We will make some adjustment in the schedule," he said amid political tensions between Beijing and Taipei over sovereignty over Taiwan.

According to the original plan, the Olympic flame will fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Taipei (capital of Taiwan) on 30th April and leave for Hong Kong on 1st May after the relay ends in Taipei.

"But now we have to change the original schedule. I think it is possible that the flame go directly from Ho Chi Minh City to Hong Kong on April 30," he said.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 at the end of a civil war but Beijing still claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory.

China has repeatedly threatened to invade if Taiwan declares independence or drags its feet on reunification talks.

Moreover, the Chinese parliament has also passed an Anti-cession Law in 2005 to foil Taiwan's bid to seek independence.

Jiang, said the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee in a letter to BOCOG had told that it would not have further discussions with BOCOG on the issue and thus "unilaterally" closed the door of the discussion.

"The responsibility that the torch relay can not go to Taipei completely lies with the Taiwan authorities," Jiang said, alleging that the Taiwan authorities had violated the regulations of the Olympic Charter.

It's for the first time that an Olympic committee to turn down the arrival of Olympic torch relay, he said.

The BOCOG announced on 26th April that the 2008 Olympic torch relay will pass through 135 cities all over the world.

The planned 137,000 km route includes a stop at Taipei before the torch arrives in Hong Kong, Macao, and a score of Chinese mainland cities.

However, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee later declared that they could not accept the planned route of the torch relay, claiming the plan "belittles" Taiwan.

Jiang said BOCOG had exchanged letters and held many meeting with the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee in a bid to solve the problem, but all in vain.

India beat Australia to enter T20 final

DURBAN, Sept 22: India stormed into the final Twenty20 World Cup on Saturday after Yuvraj Singh's blistering batting earned them a 15-run win over Australia.

India booked a final date with traditional rivals Pakistan in Johannesburg on Monday thanks to Yuvraj's blazing knock of 70 runs off just 30 deliveries.

India amassed 188 for five and Australia could not keep up the required pace and replied with 173 for seven. Yuvraj shared 84 runs off 40 balls with Robin Uthappa (34) for the third wicket after India won the toss and chose to bat.

The 25-year-old, who smashed six sixes in an over against England earlier in the week, launched the Australia bowlers for five fours and five sixes during his entertaining knock. Matthew Hayden (62) and Andrew Symonds (43) added 66 for the third wicket but Australia could mount no other significant partnerships.

India's win was almost assured when paceman Rohit Sharma conceded just five runs in the 19th over, leaving Australia to score 22 runs off the final over.

India wins Nehru Cup against Syria 1:0

NEW DELHI, Aug 29: Displaying a spectacular performance, India defeated Syria 1:0 and captured the Nehru Cup in the action packed Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday.

In one of the greatest nights for Indian football in a long time, a solitary goal from N P Pradeep against Syria clinched India's first title victory in the ONGC Nehru Cup tonight.

Bob Houghton's men accomplished the remarkable feat through a 43rd minute strike against tournament favourites Syria, which should prove to be a new beginning for Indian football.

Before the tournament, there were two teams ranked higher than India on the FIFA charts, but the team was never short of confidence and skipper Bhaichung Bhutia had declared that "there was a very realistic chance of India winning the title."

However, not many gave the hosts much of a chance against the pedigree of the West Asians and the superior physique of the men from Kyrgyzstan. But they wanted the trophy the most.

India received the winners' prize of USD 40,000 while the Syrians had to settle for half that amount.

There was further windfall for the Indians as ONGC announced a 100 per cent bonus for them. Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit chipped in with Rs five lakh while All India Football Federation announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh.

The Indians reserved their best performance for the final and prevailed in a contest that often reached boiling point.

The match featured several yellow cards and the Syrians had to play the entire second half with 10 men.

India win Test series against England

LONDON, Aug 13: India won a three-match series against England 1-0 after the final Test at The Oval was drawn here on Monday. England, set what would have been a fourth innings Test record of 500 to win, finished on 369 for six. Matt Prior was 12 not out and Ryan Sidebottom three not out after Kevin Pietersen top-scored with 101.

The draw meant India had won only their third Test series in England in 15 tours dating back 75 years following successes in 1971 (1-0) and 1986 (2-0).

It also ended England's six-year unbeaten run in home Test campaigns, a sequence which had seen them win eight and draw three out of 11 series since losing the 2001 Ashes.
England and India meet again in a seven-match one-day international series starting at Hampshire's Rose Bowl ground on Tuesday, August 21.

Tendulkar first to reach 15,000 ODI runs as India win

LONDON, June 29: Sachin Tendulkar became the first player to reach 15,000 runs in one-day internationals while steering India to a six-wicket win over South Africa in the Future Cup in Belfast on Friday.

The 34-year-old from Mumbai thumped 93, sharing an opening partnership of 134 with Saurav Ganguly (42), to help India reach their target of 227 with five balls to spare and level the three-match series 1-1.

Tendulkar bludgeoned 13 fours and two sixes before he was bowled by spinner Thandi Tshabalala as his side slid from 134 for nought to 142 for four.

But Yuvraj Singh (49 not out) and Dinesh Karthik (32 not out) shared a stand of 85 to clinch victory.

"As long as the team are winning, everything else is secondary," Tendulkar told reporters.

"It is obviously a very happy feeling especially when we ended up on a winning note. But after playing for 18 years, I feel it (the milestone) is just one of those things."

Tendulkar said he particularly enjoyed his alliance with Ganguly.

Earlier, opening batsman Morne van Wyk top-scored with 82 and Mark Boucher made an undefeated 55 as South Africa chalked up 226 for six in 50 overs.

Yuvraj was the pick of India's attack, taking three for 36 in nine overs.

South Africa captain Jacques Kallis paid tribute to Tendulkar.

"It was an unbelievable knock he played," said Kallis. "Unfortunately we went past the edge a few times and things didn't quite go our way.

"You need things to go your way when you've got a world-class player like that. On his day he's very dangerous."

The last game of the series is on Sunday.

Nadal beats Federer to win French Open title

PARIS, June 10: Rafael Nadal captured a hat-trick of French Open titles with a 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over world number one Roger Federer on Sunday and became the first man since Bjorn Borg to win three successive titles at Roland Garros.

It also shattered Federer's hopes of capturing a first French Open and become only the third man after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to hold all four Grand Slam crowns at the same time.

The win also preserved the 21-year-old Nadal's perfect record of never losing in the tournament in his three visits. He has now won all 21 of his matches.

Despite being the first player to take a set off the champion at this year's tournament, Federer was left to regret squandering 10 break points in the crucial first set which he lost and a huge 60 unforced errors in the match.

"I feel sorry for Roger," said Nadal.

"He is such a good person and a great champion. I'm happy to win here(Paris) again but I need to keep working to get even better."

Federer, who has now lost to Nadal three years in a row at Paris, said it had been another tough afternoon.

"It's a shame, but I think I came closer to winning last year. This year I was always behind and it was never easy," said Federer.

"It's not the last time I will play here and I will try all I can to win next year."

As Court Philippe Chatrier basked in sweltering temperatures of 28 degrees, it was Federer, pushing the Spanish left-hander out wide, who sniffed an early chance in the first set but Nadal snuffed out two break points in the fourth game.

Nadal saved five more break points in a marathon sixth game which featured a 21-stroke rally.

The crushing failure to hammer home the advantage weighed heavily on the Swiss as he was immediately broken to love in the next game as Nadal nipped 4-3 in front, a sloppy backhand into the net sealing the top seed's fate.

Federer wasted another golden opportunity in the eighth game.

This time three more break points went begging as Nadal came back from 0-40 to lead 5-3.

The Spaniard went to set point in the ninth game which he converted in style with a screaming winner which left Federer, whose game had rapidly unravelled, scrambling after 51 minutes on court.

The Swiss wasted another break point, his 11th, in the seventh game of the second set, but he finally broke through to lead when Nadal could only bury a tricky backhand return into the foot of the net.

Federer, with the majority of the 20,000 crowd willing him on to victory, valiantly fought off three break points to establish a 5-3 lead before he then failed to convert four set points on the Nadal serve in the ninth game.

But he levelled the tie by taking the second set 6-4 after a further 55 minutes when Nadal went long with a forehand.

It was the first set the world number two had dropped at this year's tournament. Nadal broke to lead 2-0 in the third set and defended splendidly from the baseline in the fifth game to go to 4-1.

Federer saved a set point in the eighth game but his opponent claimed the the set 6-3 with another power-packed forehand after 2hr 26min of action.

Federer, wilting under the familiar Nadal barrage and unable to break the Spaniard's resistance, hit a lazy forehand approach into the net in the third game of the fourth set to allow Nadal to jump 2-1 in front.

A love game allowed Nadal to go 4-2 which soon became 5-3 as the fight deserted Federer.

Nadal sealed his third title after 3hr 10min when Federer hit a weary forehand long.

India trample B’desh with biggest ever Test win

DHAKA, May 27: The smiles were back on the Indian team’s face after they trounced their World Cup nemesis Bangladesh by an innings and 239 runs with more than two days to spare in the second and final cricket Test at Dhaka.

This was also India’s biggest ever victory margin against any Test playing nation.

After an intimidating performance by the batsmen on the first two days, the bowlers stepped up to dismiss the hosts twice in the space of three sessions to see India clinch the two-match series 1-0.

Resuming at 85 for 5 in reply to India’s first innings total of 610 for 3 declared, Bangladesh’s capitulation was complete as they were all out first for 118 and then 253 in the second essay with an hour to go for third day’s close at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium.

After Bangladesh’s first innings came to an end with 20 minutes to go for lunch to give the visitors a lead of 492 runs, Indian skipper Rahul Dravid had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on.

And the bowlers responded to his call brilliantly.

Debutant Ramesh Powar claimed 3-33 while ace leg-spinner took 2-72 for a match haul of 5-104.

Zaheer Khan, who had 7-88 for the match and Sachin Tendulkar also had two wickets each.

Mohammad Ashraful (67) and Rajin Saleh (42) put on 81 runs for the fourth wicket and later Mashrafe Mortaza (70) wielded the willow effectively once again but they threatened the mammoth Indian target.

The margin was India’s highest in Tests, bettering the innings and 219-run win against Mark Taylor`s Australia at Kolkata in 1997-98.

The triumph, following the 2-0 ODI series win, helped India not only maintain their unbeaten run against Bangladesh but also erase the bitter memories of a first round exit from the World Cup in the West Indies after an upset loss to Habibul Bashar`s men.

It also denied Dav Whatmore, who is considered a top contender for the vacant India’s coaching post, a positive note in his farewell match.

Bangladesh never quite recovered from the early setbacks, though vice captain Ashraful set the stadium ablaze with the raw firepower from the blade.

The diminutive right-hander plundered his runs from only 41 balls and in 45 minutes, but that only prolonged the proceedings.

Ashraful, who struck a dozen boundaries and two sixes, also raced to his 50 of only 26 balls, taking only two balls more than Jacques Kallis` world record quickest half century compiled against Zimbabwe at Cape Town in 2004-05.

Zaheer, was adjudged man of the match and Sachin Tendulkar the man of the series for his back-to-back hundreds.

In the morning, Zaheer finished with his fourth five-wicket haul and Kumble (3/32) provided him ample support to pin Bangladesh on the mat in their first innings.

Khaled Mashud, who had been holding one end up, was the last man to go as he played across the line to Kumble and Dhoni had no problem in taking the fine edge. Mashud (25) hit two boundaries during his 62-ball innings.

Following on, Bangladesh top order came unstuck once again and they were reduced to 147/5 at tea.

Ashraful played a characterisitic innings, slamming Zaheer for three fours in the left-arm pacer`s third over, with shots past mid off, extra cover and fine leg.

Ashrful picked up 14 from one over of R P Singh, including one pulled six over square leg, and proceeded to decimate Zaheer, hitting him for another four and a six.

After reaching his 50 mark, Ashraful struck three more boundaries before the curtains came down on the entertaining innings.

India beat Bangladesh

DHAKA, May 10: Mahendra Singh Dhoni defied cramps to hit a mature unbeaten 93 as India recovered from a mid-innings slump to post a hard-fought five-wicket win over Bangladesh in the truncated first cricket One-dayer on Thursday.

Chasing a victory target of 251 in 47 overs, India were in a spot of bother at 144 for five before Dhoni and Dinesh Kaarthick (58 not out) pulled the team out of the pits with a unfinished 109-run partnership and give the side a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Befittingly, Dhoni hit the winning stroke off Syed Rasel to see the side reach 253 for five and win the match with one over to spare in a thrilling contest which again underlined Bangladesh's growing stature as a competitive One-day team.

Though India skipper Rahul Dravid insists it's not a revenge mission, the win did avenge the side's humiliating defeat against the minnows in the World Cup.

Australia lift World Cup

BARBADOS, April 29: Australia lifted the World Cup trophy for a record third successive time after claiming a 53-run victory over Sri Lanka in farcial ending to a rain-shortened final at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Saturday.

Brief scores:

Australia: 281 for 4 in 38 overs (A Gilchrist 149, M Hayden 38, R Ponting 37; L Malinga 2-49).

Sri Lanka: 215 for 8 in 36 overs (S Jayasuriya 63, K Sangakkara 54).

Bangladesh create another upset, stun SAfrica by 67 runs

GUYANA, April 8: Bangladesh caused an upset of epic proportions when they hammered South Africa by 67 runs in a Super Eight match of the cricket World Cup at Providence Stadium, Guyana on Saturday.

The worlds best one-day side could not make more than 184 in reply to Bangladesh's decent 251 for eight in a match which was just the kind of shot in the arm the World Cup needed.

The present World Cup was moving along at a predictable pace evoking a yawn all around but Saturday's stunning outcome would surely revive hopes of teams such as England and West Indies, eyeing a semi-final berth.

South Africa now find themselves on shaky grounds as their remaining three games of Super Eight stage are against formidable sides West Indies (10th April), New Zealand (14th April) and England (17th April).

On the other hand, it's the second upset which Bangladesh has caused and if the first one against India was financially catastrophic for the organisers, the one on Saturday would surely revive interest in the remaining three weeks of the showpiece event.

Bangladesh owed their win to an exceptional innings from middle order bat Mohammad Ashraful (87) and then the fine effort in the field from its bowlers and fielders.

South Africa in the afternoon were confronted with a tough but not insurmountable target even though the pitch, with every passing hour, was increasingly yielding help to spinners.

Woolmer was strangled with a towel: report

LONDON, March 30: Bob Woolmer's killer used twisted towel to throttle him, which explains the absence of any marks on the neck of the slain Pakistan cricket coach, according to local media reports.

'The Sun' claimed that Woolmer was strangulated with a towel, or ligature, in what seemed a mafia-style killing probably to prevent the coach from blowing the whistle on match-fixing.
The tabloid quoted Deputy Commissioner in Jamaica Police Mark Shields saying that it was "common sense" that something was used to prevent the throat being marked.

"If it is some form of manual strangulation and there are no physical marks, there may have been something between the hands of the assailant and the neck. Thats as far as I will go," Shields said.

He also confirmed that towels were found in the room. The fact that the killer wanted not to leave any mark suggests it was a well-planned murder.

Shields reiterated that it was a murder case but added that he "had to keep an open mind" and "had to be led by the scientists".

Forensic pathologis Ere Seshaiah, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, said in his report that Woolmer had died of "asphyxia caused by manual strangulation".

Shields said the chambermaid who discovered Woolmers naked body in a pool of his own vomit at Kingstons Pegasus hotel was traumatised. The report claimed she was taken back to room 374 where Woolmer was murdered.

Police were also probing reports about a match-fixer -- linked to Dawood Ibrahim -- who reportedly was thrown out of Woolmer's room after a spat with the coach.

Police confirm that Woolmer was strangled; ICC to probe

JAMAICA, March 23: Ending all speculation, Jamaican Police has confirmed that Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer was strangled to death but questions still remain as to who was behind it and what was the motive.

Two days after saying that they treated the death in the hotel room of the 58-year-old Englishman as 'suspicious', the Jamaican Police issued a statement saying, "The official report from the pathologist states that Woolmer's death was due to asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation. In these circumstances, the matter of Woolmer's death is now being treated by the Jamaican police as murder."

Addressing a press conference flanked by ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed and Pakistan media manager Pervez Mir, Deputy Commissioner of Jamaican Police Mark Shields said, "Bob was a large man and it would have taken some significant force to subdue him. At this stage, we don't know how many people were there in the room. It could be one or more people involved in the murder."

He also made it clear that the Pakistani players were not being stopped from leaving Jamaica and said both the ICC and Pakistan cricket team had given given an assurance that the cricketers would fully co-operate in the investigation whether they are in Pakistan or in the Caribbean.

Police on Thursday took fingerprints of the Pakistani players apart from questioning them.

Jamaican Police have also set up two hotlines for anyone to give information that could lead to cracking of the murder.

Police said post-mortem showed Woolmer was strangled but there are no other injury on his body.

Meanwhile, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed announced that World Cup would go ahead despite the development.

Chris Dehring, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the World Cup 2007, gave an assurance that there was adequate security measure to successfully host the event.

"We have reviewed the security arrangements in place and we feel that are adequate," he said.

Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room on Sunday and was pronounced dead at the Universty Hospital.

Speculation was rife about who could kill Woolmer and former Pakistani pacer Sarfraz Nawaz had alleged a booking syndicate was behind the murder because Woolmer was to reveal them in his proposed autobiography.

There was also unconfirmed report that the manuscript of that autobiography was missing.

ICC to probe if corruption was behind Woolmer's death.

Dismissing speculation that the ongoing World Cup would be discontinued, the International Cricket Council has said it would probe if corruption played any part in Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer's murder.

ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed made the announcement in a joint press conference after the Jamaican Police declared that Woolmer had been strangled to death in his hotel room on Sunday.

"We felt shock, outrage and great sadness for Bob's family. There has been speculation that as a result of all these, the World Cup would be discontunued. But that will not be the case," Speed said.

"We won't be put off by this cowardly, criminal act. This is not the first time that tragedy has visited a sporting event. So what we must do now is to show how resolute the game is by proving ourselves strong enough to move on from what happened," he added.

Speed said ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) would help the Jamaican Police in its probe.

"Lord Paul Congdon, who heads ACU, would also investigate if corruption played any part behind the tragic death."

Police spokesman Karl Angell said Jamaican Police had already got in touch with ACU.

Chris Dehring, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the World Cup 2007, also assured the teams that there was adequate security measure to successfully host the event.

"We have reviewed the security arrangement in place and we feel that is adequate," he said.

India defeat Bermuda

TRINIDAD, March 20: India defeated Bermuda with a huge margin to keep their dream to go into the next round of World Cup cricket.

Earlier, India batting first at Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad had posted 413 runs, a wold record, by losing 5 wickets in 50 overs.

Earlier, Indian top guns, including Virender Sehwag, came out firing on all cylinders as the Men in Blue posted a World Cup record total of 413 for five against a hapless Bermuda.

The total took them past their own best of 373 for six achieved at Taunton in 1999 as well as the World Cup highest of 398 for five which Sri Lanka had recorded against Kenya during the 1996 World Cup.

Among the batting stars, Sehwag (114) and Sourav Ganguly (89) first led the fireworks with a 202-run second wicket stand and later Yuvraj Singh (83) and Sachin Tendulkar (57 not out) finished off the run-riot with 122 runs for the fifth wicket.

Sehwag warmed the hearts of his dwindling supporters with his first century in 61 games and over two years, whacking 114 from 87 balls with 17 fours and three sixes. Yuvraj, on his part, thrashed 83 off just 46 balls with seven sixes and three fours.

Tendulkar, coming in at number six, did his own bit with 57 from 29 balls, inclusive of two fours and four sixes.

Sehwag, coming to bat at one down after his uncertainty with the new ball had led to Robin Uthappa being promoted as opener, whacked the amateurs from Bermuda to all parts of the ground.

In striking his eighth one-day century -- his first in 61 matches -- Sehwag outscored his partner Ganguly and reached his half century from only 43 balls with seven fours and a six. He was to reach his next 50 from only 38 balls as he peppered the hoardings and stands with ferocious shots.

Sehwag twice hit David Hemp for consecutive sixes, lifting him straight and then over extra cover for maximum shots. He then hoicked Kevin Hurdle for a six over square leg and reached his century from 81 balls with a single off the same bowler.

Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer dies

JAMAICA, March 18: Pakistan's cricket coach Bob Woolmer suddenly died in mysterious circumstances, hours after Pakistan's shocking elimination from the World Cup after the defeat at the hands of Ireland.

Fifty-eight-year old heavy built former England player, who has been the coach of the unpredictable and mercurial Pakistan team for about three years, was found unconscious in his hotel room and was rushed to a hospital.

According to Pakistan team media manager Pervez Mir, Woolmer was pronounced dead on arrival at the University Hospital, a news that caused a shock in the cricket world and cast a gloom over the World Cup.

"I have to say with great sadness that Woolmer has died. The doctors in the ICU have pronounced him dead," Mir said.

He said Woolmer was rushed to hospital this morning after being found unconsciousness in his hotel room with signs of vomiting.

"He was in critical condition. We have informed his wife and family in South Africa," another Pakistan team official said.

Pakistan tumbled out of the World Cup on Saturday after a shocking defeat to Ireland.

Born in Kanpur(India), Woolmer played 19 Test matches for England.

Pak out, India lose its first match to Bangladesh

TRINIDAD, March 18: Minnows Ireland created history by beating Pakistan by 3 wickets, throwing them out of the World Cup, meanwhile in another match, Bangladesh stunned India beating them by 5 wickets.

Bangladesh produced one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history with a five-wicket victory over India in a Group B clash at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad.

The unfancied team bowled out India's formidable line-up for 191 on a good batting pitch - their lowest one-day total against Bangladesh before romping to victory.

Left-handed opener Tamim Iqbal smashed 51 for his maiden half-century in only his fifth one-dayer before Bangladesh reached the target in 48.3 overs.

Fellow left-hander Saqibul Hasan (53) put on 84 runs for the fourth wicket with Mushfiqur Rahim, who was 56 not out, helping Bangladesh achieve only their second win over India in 15 meetings.

Bangladesh emulated their famous victory over Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, underlining their progress after failing to win a single game in South Africa four years ago where India were finalists.

It was their third victory in World Cups having also beaten Scotland in 1999.

The defeat plunged Indian hopes into disarray from the toughest group which 1996 champions Sri Lanka are favoured to top after crushing debutants Bermuda in their first game.

Bangladesh paceman Mashrafe Mortaza struck two early blows to claim four for 38 before left-arm spinners Mohammad Rafique and Abdur Razzak left Indian batsmen parched for runs to take three wickets apiece in their superb team effort.

For India, opener Saurav Ganguly struck 66 and stayed on till the 44th over to prop up his team, adding 85 for the fifth wicket with Yuvraj Singh (47).

Aussies tumble Scotland, Kenya beat Canada

ST KITTS, March 15: Australia beat Scotland by 203 runs in the Opening Group A encounter at St Kitts,while Kenya beat Canada by seven wickets in the first Group C match played at the Beausejour Stadium, in St Lucia.

Kenya produced an excellent win beating a substandard Canada by 7 wickets with 40 balls to spare.

Three-time champions Australia sounded an ominous warning to their World Cup rivals with a thumping rank outsiders Scotland by a record 203-run margin in the Group 'A' encounter.

The Aussies, smarting under a five-match losing streak and dethroned as world's number one one-day side, posted an imposing 334 for six which centred on a majestic century by captain Ricky Ponting.

The Scots simply crumbled under the weight of the mammoth target and they never recovered after losing their top five batsmen for 42 runs within 16 overs.

They were eventually all out for 131 in 40.1 overs. The margin of victory was the second biggest in World Cup history.

The absence of key players Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee was hardly felt by Australia as Ponting played a vintage knock.

The 32-year-old struck a 93-ball 113 to become only the fourth batsman to score four hundreds in the quadrennial event.

Glenn McGrath, seeking to surpass Wasim Akram's record tally of 55 scalps, then claimed 3-14.

For Scotland, wicketkeeper-batsman Colin Smith was the Rock of Gibraltar with a defiant 51.

It was Smith's maiden ODI half-century and contained seven boundaries.

Caribbean carnival begins

JAMAICA, March 12: A symphony of Reggae and Calypso rhythms formed the silhouette of a colourful and extravagant opening ceremony of the ninth Cricket World Cup at the Trelawny Stadium at Montego Bay in Jamaica.

Titled 'West Indian Energy', the opening ceremony unfolded in true West Indian style showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean, as boundaries disppeared with nine Island nations joining hands in an unprecedented effort to host the mega event.

Three decades after their triumph in the first World Cup in 1975, the twice World cup champions sang and danced their way into 47-days of cricketing carnival.

Reggae, dancehall, calypso and different musical genres, were pieced together featuring Caribbean dance sequences, fire-eaters and stilt-walkers playing cricket in a spellbound three-hour opening ceremony, watched by about 10,000 at the Trelawny Stadium and over 150 crore through television.

Former West Indian all-rounder Sir Garfield Sobers, now in his 70s and acknowledged one of the greatest cricketer, officially declared the tournament open.

"On behalf of the West Indies it is my honour and privelege to decalre the ninth ICC Cricket World Cup officially open," he said.

Particular attention was paid to the region's commitment to Carnival in the opening ceremony which cost USD 2.5 billion and brought to life with the help of over 2500 singers, dancers and performers.

The biggest pan-Caribbean gala of West Indian music, culture and way of life was unfolded in front of 10,000 spectators present at the stadium.

Region's top international artistes such as Sean Paul, Gregory Issacs, Beres Hammond, Buju Banton and Half Pint regaled the assembled audience with their musical genius and the list also included Allyson Hinds, commonly known as soca queen of the Caribbean.

Sixteen teams paraded in alphabetic order but the West Indies being the hosts were the last to take the field.

The teams paraded with a child, intended to highlight the united stand for children and against the deadly AIDS epidemic.

The Indian team, as most others, paraded in manner of hierarchy: captain Rahul Dravid walking out, followed by Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, two senior most cricketers of the side, who in turn had Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag walking behind them.

The players' declaration was done by West Indian captain Brian Lara while Steve Bucknor, the longest serving umpire, read the officials' declaration before Sir Garfield Sobers declared the 2007 World Cup open.

Set in golden sunshine against a backdrop of pristine blue sea, the ceremony also featured introduction of World Cup mascot 'Mello', the orange raccoon like creature wearing a blue shirt over a white vest, and the officail song of the World Cup 'The Game of Love and Unity', sung by the trio of Rupee, Shaggy and Fayann Lyons.




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