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Bollywood stars, lion dancers add color
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08:22, April 18, 2008

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The Indian capital welcomed the Olympic torch with traditional pomp and pageantry - and a traditional lion dance performed by about 400 overseas Chinese living in the eastern city of Kolkata.

The relay, stretching from the presidential palace to India Gate, a war memorial, and cut to less than 3 km for security reasons, went smoothly - with top current and retired athletes, politicians and Bollywood stars taking part.

The first torch was lit at the nearly-century-old Rashtrapati Bhavan - reportedly the biggest official residence of a president in the world.

Suresh Kalmadi, the president of the Indian Olympic Association, said the relay was a success.

"The spirit of the Olympics is universal and should be upheld by the whole world," said Kalmadi, who ran the first leg of the relay on the broad boulevard.

The second torchbearer, legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh told China Daily: "Indians want the Olympics in Beijing to be a very good Games. The top sportsmen of the country are all here (as torchbearers), and they're sending that wish."

Singh participated in three Summer Games and broke the world record in 400-m in Rome 1960.

Others who ran included top-ranked tennis doubles pair Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati, while Bollywood was represented by superstars Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan.

Saif, a brand ambassador of the Beijing Olympics Presenting Partner Lenovo, told China Daily: "I'm a great supporter of the Olympics. I believe that politics and sports should not be mixed and consider it an honor to be holding a torch that so many great people have held."

Police said some "pro-Tibet independence" activists had tried to sabotage the relay and about 180 people were arrested near the relay route.

Following the relay, the Olympic convoy left for Bangkok, where the event will be staged tomorrow.

Source: China Daily

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