After bringing the Capital to a standstill on Thursday afternoon, the Olympic torch relay paralysed operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the evening. The enormous traffic jam that the torch left in its wake delayed over 50 flights and left hundreds of passengers stranded.
Traffic troubles began around 7 pm after the relay got over and the Olympic torch was being transported to the airport for its journey to Bangkok. The torch, along with a huge entourage of officials accompanying it, reached the airport in three buses. During this period, traffic was closed on a section of NH-8, leading to a huge pile-up. The torch left Delhi on time but disrupted the schedules of hundreds of air travellers.
Passengers could be seen walking to the airport with luggage in hand, leaving their vehicles behind.
The jam impacted those who had to catch evening flights the most. Not only did a number of passengers miss their flights, even the cabin crew failed to report on time after being stuck in the same jam. “The roads leading to the airport were chock-a-block and members of our cabin crew got delayed. At least six of our flights were delayed for intervals ranging between 40 minutes and two hours,” said an Air India official. The national carrier wasn’t alone — flights of almost all airlines, both domestic and international, were delayed because of the torch.
“Flights had to be held up because many passengers had failed to arrive. Almost all flights left without 30-35 passengers who still couldn’t make it,” said a Kingfisher official. A Jet Airways spokesman, confirmed a similar delay for the airlines’ cabin crew.
Couldn’t the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and traffic authorities have thought of a better, alternative plan? The torch, for instance, could have been transported in a helicopter from Safdarjang airport to the IGIA without disturbing road traffic at all.
“"You (the media) are only concentrating on the traffic snarls and not on the Olympic torch relay. I cannot comment on this anymore,” said IOA president Suresh Kalmadi.
The last leg of the torch’s journey meant a large section of NH-8 was choked with traffic. To make matters worse, heavy commercial vehicles, which were stopped at the Delhi-Gurgaon border during the torch relay, were let loose in the evening.
“The traffic outside the airport was stopped for sometime when the Olympic Torch went back. This, along with the large number of heavy vehicles that were allowed to enter at the same time, led to slow traffic outside the airport,” said a traffic police official.
While many passengers missed their flights, those who landed at the airport, too, had to face a tough time. As the taxi stands were empty, passengers were stranded for hours at the arrival terminals, desperately calling their friends and relatives to relieve them of the agony.