Islamabad             -        Royal Ascot was eerily quiet as it began with no crowds, pomp or presentations - while the Queen praised the ‘valiant’ efforts of organizers but was forced to stay away for the first time in her 68 year reign. More than 300,000 guests, dressed in their finery, usually gather for the five-day sporting and social highlight in Berkshire, but coronavirus safety measures mean no one is allowed to attend. Pictures taken showed the usually bustling grandstands and hospitality enclosures empty aside from the occasional member of staff, while the roads surrounding the venue were largely deserted. The Queen, 94, who will be watching on television from Windsor Castle, praised the ‘valiant’ efforts of those involved in working to make this year’s event a success.