NEW DELHI, Sept 26 (PTI): This was a rare occasion of celebrations. Rare because the country was rejoicing the achievements of its sporting legends. Rare because this time cricket wasn�t the centre of attraction. Also, for a change, cricketing giants Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Kapil Dev were not the ones receiving accolades; instead, they were seen singing praises for 21 players from other sports.
The �Indian Sports Legends � A Network 18 initiative� was a pleasant walk down the memory lane for the sporting icons.
The evening took off with former India cricket captain Pataudi calling on two-time Asian athletic gold medallist Sriram Singh on the stage.
The undisputed king of Indian middle distant running in the 1970s looked cynically at the present-day athletes.
�When we, in the past, could achieve so much with sheer hard-work and dedication, why can�t today�s youngsters, who get better facilities and a lot more exposure?� he wondered.
Sriram, one of the few who had retained the 800m Athletics Gold in back-to-back Asian Games and finished seventh in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, said that he kept himself busy by shuttling between Delhi and Jaipur and trying to get some young talents to do which he couldn�t achieve. The evening became more colourful when Milkha Singh arrived on the stage. Singh, who was the first Indian to win Gold at the Commonwealth Games and had narrowly missed out on a medal at the Rome Olympics, had an interesting story to tell on how Pakistani President Ayub Khan called him the �Flying Sikh�.
�It was after a race in Pakistan in 1962, where I defeated Abdul Khaliq, the winner of the 100 metres gold at the Tokyo Asian Games, that I was christened the �The Flying Sikh� by Pakistani President Ayub Khan,� he said. Milkha Singh, however, was dismayed at the current crop of athletes and said Indian athletics was in a shambles and there was no hope for them at the Commonwealth Games.
�I will be surprised if a single Indian flag goes up during the athletics event at the upcoming Games,� he said. Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, the gold medalist at the 1962 Asiad, disagreed with Milkha Singh�s views and assured that tri-colour would go up numerous times during the CWG event.
International Zone: The biggest hit at CWG Village
New Delhi, Sept 26 (PTI): The residential blocks have got a thumbs down but the international zone at the Commonwealth Games Village is turning out to be a massive hit with the athletes and delegates who have checked in.
�The international zone is marvellous and I am sure the athletes would enjoy it,� Nigerian Chef de Mission, Elias Gora said after taking a round of the area.
The zone which is a demarcated area in the village is meant for extrasport activities for the athletes and has lots of recreation facilities.
�This is the best place in the whole of the village, I love coming here,� an official with the Kenyan contingent said.
Members from the Indian contingent � the first team to check-in at the village � have been regularly spotted in the zone.
�The international zone is very good. I enjoy spending time there and it is a world class facility,� boxing star Akhil Kumar told PTI.
The state-of-the art golf simulator at the zone which allows one to play golf on a graphically simulated driving range in an indoor setting has been a hit with athletes from many countries.
�We had some foreign athletes taking part in virtual golfing action and since we are offering the service for free, we expect many more foot falls once all the teams arrive here,� said Ashutosh, the in-charge at the facility.
There is also a gaming zone with billiards tables, a TV lounge, an ice-cream parlour, in addition to shopping opportunities like merchandise shop, handicrafts outlet, electronic store and a general store that sells provisions.
The shops have stored items imported specially from the Commonwealth nations to make the visiting contingents feel at home.
�We have specially imported chocolates, chips and cakes for the athletes so that they don�t feel away from their homes,� Arun Saini, manager at the general store, said
The handicrafts store has art pieces from all over India to ensure that the residents get a feel of the rich cultural heritage and diversity of Indian art.
�From Kashmiri Paper Machie to Banarasi scarves and Kanchipuram silk, our store has specialties from all over India and we have had some curious visitors so far,� a manager at the store said while pointing towards the shinning metal statues from Moradabad.
A discotheque where athletes can unwind is adds to the experience. The restaurant-cum-bar at the zone will also be a special attraction for the foodies who may want to go for gourmet meals.
One more attraction for the look-conscious inhabitants of the 63.5 acre village is the saloon where many foreign teams including the English have booked advance appointments.
The English team would be moving in tomorrow.
�A manager from the England team came here inquiring about various packages we provide ...The response has been encouraging so far with many advance bookings coming our way,� an executive at the saloon said.
The open amphitheater will see flag ceremonies and cultural programs being held for various participating nations. The nearby musical fountain is also a delight especially during the evening hours when lights, water and music produce a mesmerising effect.
�This is the best place for the athletes to sit and relax after all the practice session. Enjoy the evening with the fountain and cultural programs,� the Organising Committee (OC) chairman, Suresh Kalmadi said.