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Pakistan stages Olympic flame relay

ISLAMABAD: The Olympic flame witnessed its tenth-stop relay in Sports Complex of Islamabad on Wednesday with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani attending the opening and celebration ceremonies.

The colourful ceremony took place behind closed doors at a sports stadium in Islamabad

Youngsters waved Pakistani flags and cheered as the flame was brought on a traditional horse-driven chariot. The army band played to herald the arrival of the torch.

“It is indeed a great honour for Pakistan and its capital Islamabad to be included in the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics,” Pakistan Olympic Association chairman Arif Hassan said in a speech.

“I welcome the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay on its ‘Journey of Harmony’. Let me convey my strong sentiments to Beijing and wish them the best of luck at the Beijing Olympic Games,” said Pervez Musharraf in the opening ceremony.

“We in Islamabad, share the Beijing’s enormous pride as the host of the Olympic Games. I hope the world will witness determination, passion and strength, which are the hallmark of the Chinese nation. I wish them all the best and hope that they will always cherish the memories of their short stay in Pakistan”.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani also delivered speech in the opening-up.

“The journey of the Olympic torch carrying the message of harmony symbolizes the Olympic ideals of peace, friendship and international understanding. Here today we the people of Pakistan confirm our commitment to lighting the passion and sharing the dream of global harmony,” said Yousaf Raza Gillani.”

The Olympic torch today places upon us as citizens of a growing yet shrinking world a great responsibility, a responsibility we must stand up and accept, a responsibility to share a universal vision of harmony, a responsibility to make the world a peaceful and passionate home for our future generations and to whom history will make us answerable.”

The first torchbearer was Samiullah Khan, a former field hockey player, who was nicknamed “The Flying Horse” because of his great speed. He played as a left winger for Pakistan in 1970s and 1980s.

“I personally represents Pakistan wishing China good luck and host a great Olympic Games,” said Samiullah Khan. “It’s pitiful for the torch relay going on in the closed stadium, but the security is the first thing to consider for everyone. Millions of people can see the relay through TV. In 2001, I went to China during the ninth Chinese National Games in Guangzhou and I hope tofind another opportunity to visit China next.”

Jahangir Khan, the last torchbearer in Islamabad relay, is a former world No. 1 professional squash player, who is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of the game.

“You know the squash is not a sport of Olympics, so it has always been a dream for me to be an Olympian. It’s a special way for me to be in Olympic Games. It seems you passed the final line and got a No. 1 and won a gold medal in the Olympics. Something what I am doing today is accomplishing something like that,” said Jahangir Khan.

“Squash has been played all over the world. You can find a lot of people are playing it all over the world and China is coming along. We have seen a lot of fans from Hong Kong. I think this year will have a lot of Opens, and we have got the Beijing Open inChina,” said Jahangir. “Next year, it will be decided whether the sport will be included in 2016 Olympic Games. I am optimistic for the future prospect of squash.”

“I am the first male squash torchbearer to carry the Olympic torch. It’s a big honor for me to be the last bearer and ended the relay here,” he added.

A bulk of top athletes were selected to carry the torch including Malik Muhammad Younus, Ghulam Abbas and Farjad Saif.

The torch’s next stop will be the Indian capital New Delhi on Thursday.

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