A galaxy of sporting heroes grace Asian Games torch relay

A galaxy of international sportspersons, including Indonesia’s badminton legend Susi Susanti and Mary Kom, participated in the Relay.

Mary Kom and Susi Susanti at the Asian Games torch relay in New Delhi on Sunday.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Two cities hosting Asian Games could become a regular feature in the future. The Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee (INASGOC) chairman, Erick Thohir, made this observation here on Sunday at an event held to launch the torch relay for the sporting extravaganza to be held at Jakarta-Palembang from August 12.

A galaxy of international sportspersons, including Indonesia’s badminton legend Susi Susanti and Mary Kom, participated in the Relay.

Thohir, who has major stakes in Inter Milan FC and is one of the most influential persons in Indonesia, said: “We are prepared to host an event which signifies Asian unity. In times to come, it would be a good idea to stage the Asian Games at more than one city given the growing number of disciplines and sportsmen participating. Even the FIFA is going to stage the 2026 World Cup in three different countries.”

The INASGOC chairman informed that a record number of 16920 persons have been accredited for the Asian Games, including 11620 athletes. “It’s bigger than the Olympics. We will be having 7000 media persons covering the Asian Games. India and Indonesia have had strong cultural ties since the days of Pandit Nehru and President Sukarno. We want to strengthen the friendship further,” Thohir added.

Susanti, gold medallist at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, was excited at her nation hosting the Asian Games after 1962. “I hope Indonesia would make the most of it and emerge a strong sporting nation. Badminton, as a sport, has seen many changes. It has become more technical and skilful. The endurance demand in badminton has grown and I expect Indonesia to win at least two gold medals,” said Susanti.

On India’s preparation for the Asian Games, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president N. K. Batra noted, “We are sending a contingent of 800-plus, including 523 athletes, and we are very well prepared.”

Apart from Kom and Susanti, the others who ran with the torch were PR Sreejesh, Sardar Singh, Vishal Uppal, Achanta Sharath Kamal, SV Sunil and Manika Batra.

The Torch Relay, which was launched at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, has a historical significance as this was the venue where the first edition of Asian Games was held in 1951. The flame will be transferred to Indonesia, where it will be merged with a sacred flame from Merapen, Central Java, at the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan on July 18. The flame, in its 18,000-km journey, will go through 54 cities in 18 provinces across the archipelago to the Opening Ceremony in Jakarta on August 18.