The Queen's Baton arrived in the City of Joy amidst heavy downpour but soon enough the skies cleared out for the 8-km relay to be flagged off from the historic ramparts of the Victoria Memorial.
The baton was launched by Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace in London on October 29 last year in presence of the President of India, Pratibha Patil, during a formal ceremony.
The baton, after travelling through 70 countries, covering almost 170,000 kilometres, entered India on June 25 at the Wagah border. It is now in the final leg of the relay and on Monday will travel to Durgapur and Asansol before going to Jharkhand. The baton will reach New Delhi on September 30, on the eve of the 19th Commonwealth Games, beginning on October 3.
Several sport dignitaries like Bhaichung Bhutia and former footballer Tulsidas Balaram were present at the Kolkata airport to receive the baton that flew down from Tripura in the morning.
In the afternoon, school children enacted a small skit on India's struggle for independence in front of the Victoria Memorial. Baul performers and dhakis from the adjoining Purulia and Bankura districts spiced up the atmosphere with an enthralling performance, followed by an equally inspiring show by the military band of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (2nd battalion) that had even the former national security adviser and current governor of Bengal M.K Narayanan tapping his feet.
The flagging-off ceremony was preceded by the unveiling of a special postal cover marking the event.
Several Olympians like P.K. Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, Gurbux Singh and former athletes Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, Soma Biswas, pugilist Qamar Ali, chess player Dibyendu Barua and of course, the city's biggest star Sourav Ganguly, were present at the occasion.
Governor M.K. Narayanan flagged off the relay by handing over the baton to Bhutia and Ganguly. Several former athletes took turns at carrying the baton, crossing through the maidan, past Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting clubs and the Hooghly River before finally concluding at the local Police Training School.