They might have been one of the most vocal critics of arrangements in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games but now, the Aussies, the Kiwis, the Scots, and the Canadians can't get enough of “Incredible India”.
These countries have been in a majority in the groups of athletes and officials from 71 countries visiting the Taj Mahal on the free train ride to Agra arranged by the Organising Committee with the Indian Railways.
After a lukewarm response to the daylong trip to the Agra in a special train prepared by the railways, the athletes are warming up to the “Taj experience”.
Of the 1,645 athletes that have so far made the trip, almost 1,000 went only in the last two days. And at 113, the Australians have formed the major chunk of visitors from one country.
The Kiwis, the Canadians and the Scots, too, have sent around 70 each of their athletes through the week. The booking list for the next two days also consists of athletes mostly from these countries.
“The monument is awesome, nothing like we have seen anywhere. We also enjoy the scenes on the way to Agra,” said an Aussie athlete at the Commonwealth Games Village.
Officials from smaller countries such as Papua New Guinea, Falkland Islands, Bangladesh, Trinidad and Cyprus have also been taking part in the journey. The trip begins at Safdarjung station at 7 am and culminates and returns at 8 pm after a day-long tour of the historical monuments at Agra.
“The Taj is one of the best brand ambassadors of India. Athletes who are aware of the beautiful monument are keen to experience it. We expect maximum rush now that most of the events have ended,” said Priya Singh Paul, head of Communications at the Organising Committee.
On its part, the railways have give the train a Games look. Consisting of one executive chair car, eight AC chair cars and two luggage and generator car coaches, the Taj Commonwealth Express has been modelled on the Shatabdi Express with new coaches.
“Being the lead partner of the Games, it is a great honour to be taking the athletes to our country's pride — the Taj,” said Manish Tiwari, Northern Railway spokesperson.