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The Taj, a hit with foreign athletes

Sunday, October 17, 2010 04:55:47 PM, IANS

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Agra: "This is incredible! I can't express my feelings! I have seen and read all this in books but being here and seeing it, it is fantastic!" This is how Kenyan men's marathon gold medallist John Ekiru Kelai reacted on seeing the Taj Mahal.

Kelai was not the only Commonwealth Games athlete to be mesmerized by the imposing 17th century marble monument to love.

Out of the 350 or so foreign athletes and officials who travelled on the last of the nine special train journeys to Agra, the Kenyan was perhaps the most euphoric.

Kelai said the day-long trip to Agra was the best experience he had in India after the Oct 3-14 Games. And he was more than willing to appreciate the hospitality of the Indian authorities.

"The trip was great, the food was also very nice. I saw a lot of goodwill and hospitality of the Indian people," the athlete told IANS.

Athletes from Malaysia, Britain and Gambia -- among the many countries represented on the train -- thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the Taj, India's biggest tourist draw.

After visiting the Taj, the cavalcade proceeded towards more sightseeing and entertainment before returning to the railway station under heavy security to return to New Delhi.

People lining up the roads waved to the visitors.

The Indian Railways' Taj Commonwealth Games Express made its ninth and last journey Saturday.

The service, started Oct 6, carried around 3,500 athletes and officials from New Delhi's Safdurjung railway station on the 198-km journey to Agra Cantonment station in about three hours.

The coaches were decorated with 231 photo exhibits depicting Indian culture and more. Attendants in traditional Indian suits and turban served the passengers.

According to officials, the train trips organised by the railways and the Uttar Pradesh government were a huge success. "There were many compliments and no complaint," said one official.








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