A very happy ending to the 19th Commonwealth Games

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What began a dozen evenings ago with a nervous nation's fingers crossed ended tonight as a triumph hands down.

So when the Commonwealth Games Federation flag shifted hands from Delhi to Glasgow, the host city of the next Games in 2014, during the ritual segment of the closing ceremony here this evening, Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi wiped a stain of relief from his forehead. And broke into his first, genuine smile in a very long time despite the jeers from large, unsparing sections of the 60,000-strong crowd.

All around him, the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium dazzled once again in splashes of colour, explosions of sound and a song-and-dance routine that seemed much longer than the half-hour it lasted. The Aerostat, its novelty worn off after the opening ceremony, still managed to impress as it hovered against the black sky.

For all the relieved handshakes amongst the organisers, the moment was more a victory for Indian sports, which had finally broken from its firm shackles on home turf. The untold story was that of beaming Indian athletes, who now share national focus with India's most popular sporting superstars, the cricketers.

Packed houses followed unseen faces from stadium to stadium as the tournament ran its course. Whether it was the intoxicating din of 60,000 fans at JLN for the finale of athletics, or grandparents patiently gripping toddlers' hands in snaking queues outside the boxing and wrestling venues, unknown athletes stepped up to the plate to become national heroes.

As the spectators filed out of the stadium this evening, there weren't many who were talking of cracked false ceiling, the collapsed footbridge, the stained sink or Mani Shanker Aiyer. All this is expected to be back in the days to come but for 12 days and 12 nights, sports had taken centrestage over the peripheral chaos after earning its hardest win national acclaim.

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