As athletes from various Commonwealth countries started arriving here, the British royal family announced that Prince Charles would throw open the Games since Queen Elizabeth II would not be able to attend the event. This is the first time in 44 years that the British monarch will not attend the Games.
Prince Charles’ office, Clarence House, issued a statement asserting that the heir-to-the-throne will inaugurate the Games, especially when last weekend a meeting of senior Commonwealth Games officials and Organising Committee was supposed to take a decision on whether the Prince of Wales, as the Queen’s representative, or President Pratibha Patil, should open the Games on October 3.
However, sources indicated that a compromise may be reached in which Prince Charles will declare the Games open while the President will say “let the Games begin”.
Officials both in Delhi and London were working on a possible understanding in the contentious issue as the Indian side was keen that Patil should inaugurate the Games since she ranked higher in protocol to the Prince. While the Indian side insisted on the president opening the Games citing protocol, the English side agreed on a compromise. An announcement regarding this may be out on Tuesday.
The demand that the president should be asked to open the Games is likely to grow since there is precedence of a head of state declaring open the Commonwealth Games – in 1998, the Malaysian king inaugurated the event held in Kuala Lumpur. At that time too the Queen did not attend the ceremony and had deputed her son, Prince Edward, to the event.
A spokesperson for President Patil told Deccan Herald that Rashtrapati Bhavan had “no comments to offer on the issue”.
Government sources said it was up to Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar and the External Affairs Ministry to arrive at a decision in this regard.
Prince Charles’ statement, however, indicated that there was no controversy.