Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday (February 22) launched the first-ever Khelo India University Games in Cuttack and said the event marks the next step in the country’s sporting revolution.
As many as 3400 athletes from 159 universities across the country will vie for top honours across 17 disciplines, including rugby which is among the six-team events.
The prime minister launched the multi-disciplinary sporting event through a video conference facility. He called it a historic moment for Indian sports. “It marks the next step in the country’s sporting revolution,” Modi said in his address.
“A new history has been made in Odisha today. This is not only a historic moment in Indian sports but also a big step for the future of Indian sports,” he added.
Present at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, among others, were Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, union sports minister Kiren Rijiju and Dharmendra Pradhan, who holds the petroleum and natural gas portfolio in the union cabinet. Sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya was also there.
Modi said the KIUG will provide a big platform for young athletes to fulfill their dreams. “In the coming days, you have the chance to win over 200 gold medals. You also have the chance of bettering your performances, you have the chance to give new heights to your capabilities,” he said.
Ace sprinter Dutee Chand, who is a student of KIIT, the host university, was also a part of the event.
Besides Dutee, there are other talented athletes like Mangalore University’s triple jumper Jay Shah, his team-mate long-distance runner Narendra Pratap Singh, Pune University’s long-distance runner Komal Jagadale and Acharya Nagarjuna University’s sprinter Yarraji Jyothi, who can lift the quality of the competition in track and field sport.
“You will not only compete against each other but the most important thing is that you are competing against yourself. Your hard work here will take you, your family’s and India’s dreams forward,” Modi said.
Lauding the government’s initiative, the prime minister said: “The Khelo India program has played a vital role in attracting and identifying young sporting talents from across the country.”
“The Khelo India initiative has improved the level of sports and sportsperson in the country. It has improved the sporting infrastructure in the country,” Modi said.
The prime minister said it was heartening to see talented youngsters coming out of the Khelo India initiative are not from big cities but from small places. “They are from a poor background, common people from tier 2, tier 3 cities. They have generated new hope for the country,” Modi said.
“We are promoting transparency in the identification and selection of athletes, which has resulted in better performances from our athletes at the international stage.”
A colourful 45-minute cultural-cum-entertainment show marked the opening ceremony in which 390 students performed and showcased the rich cultural heritage of Odisha. Padma Shri Aruna Mohanty choreographed a sequence that showcased dance forms such as Odissi and Sambalpuri.
Composer Ram Sampath and singer Sona Mohapatra performed a song that urged athletes to participate with pride during the Games. Music composer Nakash Aziz motivated the athletes with his song ‘Khelo Khelo’, which talks about taking sports to the next level.
Rijiju said India will see many international champions coming through KIUG.
“I’m sure we will find more Olympians and unearth more talent from the Games. It gives a platform for athletes to showcase their talent at the highest level and also to share expertise,” he said during his address.
The games will be staged across 10 venues in Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack, with the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology being the main center.