New Delhi, India welcomed the Olympic Flame with an enthusiasm that exceeded not only all expectations but also the crowd turnout forecasts.
The police were not able to hold back the tens of thousands of people, who wanted to follow closely the course of the Flame at the hands of famous artists and sport personalities. Inevitably, the Flame did not take the planned elephant ride: the expected procession of elephants did not take place, as thousands of people broke through the police barriers and swarmed the area.
There were no incidents, but the crowd's size and enthusiasm did not allow the event to be concluded as planned.
It was a course full of colours and of the peculiarities of the city which will host the Commonwealth Games in 2010, and which also aspires to bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. New Delhi welcomed Athens in a warm, musical way. With crowds flocking to greet the torchbearers and take a closer look at sports, movie and TV stars. Under oppressive heat and humidity, the city's central locations were packed with people who watched the Flame change hands 105 times.
It was the main event of these days for the Indian capital, with hundreds of signs at central points inviting citizens to watch the Torch Relay. In their enthusiasm, sometimes the crowds moved over the boundaries set by the police, and the convoy had to stop in front of the people who got in the way. Just before the end of the Torch Relay, the Flame was at the head of a procession of thousands of people, moving towards India Gate. Indian journalists commented that crowd turnout had exceeded all expectations, as well as all Police forecasts. "We must thank Athens for bringing the Flame to Delhi, to millions of people who never had the opportunity to follow the Olympic Torch Relay from so near,"
stated Asiatic Sports Federation and Indian Olympic Committee President, Suresh KALMADI. "The International Torch Relay will be a great success, and so will the Athens Games."
Mr Kalmadi himself was the first torchbearer, receiving the torch from the Ambassador of Greece in Delhi, Efstathios LOZOS.
The Flame travelled through the city's central locations and major monuments, to end at a huge event organised at the National Stadium. There were no speeches at welcome points - just big orchestras playing traditional rhythmic Indian music.
In one of the stages that had been set up, to the loud sounds of wind instruments, IOC Member Mr Randhir SINCH forecasted that Athens will organise good and safe Games, because it has the potential and the staffing to cope with it. Karil DEV, one of the world's top cricket players, made similar forecasts: "I hope I'll will manage to be in Athens. I think that the success in the organisation of the Games depends on infrastructure and human resources. Athens fulfils both prerequisites."
Vivak OBERDI, an Indian movie star, talked about the symbolism of the Olympic Flame: "I feel a great honour and enthusiasm for having the opportunity to hold the Athens torch. If I can manage I will come to the Games, I believe that their return to Greece stands for all Olympic ideals."
The Olympic Flame will leave New Delhi at the dawn of Friday, on its way to Cairo, where Torchbearers will carry it to the Pyramids.