Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar pulls out of torch relay

(dpa) - Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has declined to run in the Olympic torch relay to be held in the capital Thursday, an official of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said

"Sachin called to say he is not well. He also has to attend a meeting of Indian Premier League captains in Bangalore," Suresh Kalmadi, president of the IOA, said at a press briefing.

Kalmadi also announced a list of 70 torchbearers which included former Indian Olympic Games participants such as tennis player Leander Paes and athletes Anju Bobby George and PT Usha. At least 30 of the torchbearers were present at the press briefing.

A few of the sportsmen spoke on the occasion saying they were honoured to run with the torch and represent their country.

"Carrying the torch itself is an honour," said octogenarian Randhir Singh who was in the Indian hockey team in 1948. "But before the house was open, anyone could come and greet us," he added with regret.

Tibetan refugee groups in India have been holding protests leading up to the torch relay and the Beijing Olympics saying they want to use the occasion to draw international attention to China's human rights violations in Tibet.

The Tibetans plan major demonstrations on Thursday to coincide with the torch rally in Delhi.

Tibetan groups have requested Indian torchbearers to withdraw or to wear black armbands and use the occasion to highlight the cause of Tibet.

The 70 torchbearers would run a curtailed three kilometre distance amid extremely tight security arrangements. The government is expected to deploy about 15,000 police personnel besides paramilitary forces to protect the venue of the relay.

Three people, including Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia, former police official Kiran Bedi and film star Soha Ali Khan, have already withdrawn from the relay. Among them, only Bhutia has cited conditions in Tibet as a reason for his withdrawal.

"We have received so many requests," said Kalmadi. "Every sportsman wants to run with the Olympic torch," he said.

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