Cuttack, Feb 22 (IANS) The inaugural edition of the Khelo India University Games was launched here on Saturday with a dazzling opening ceremony with Prime Minster Narendra Modi too gracing the occasion with his virtual presence.
Speaking to the august gathering through a video link, the Prime Minister declared the Games open and exhorted the athletes to better their own performances.
“It is a historic moment for Indian Sports. With the launch of Khelo India University Games India has entered the league of countries where university games are organized at this level. I congratulate the organizers from Odisha who have put together this spectacular event and wish the 3000+ youth athletes from across the country all the best for the Khelo India University Games.
“In the coming few days, the goal is to win medals but even more to better your own performance. Your hard work here will take you, your families and your country’s dream ahead. You have torch bearers like Dutee Chand here to inspire you. This is the start of a new sports revolution in India,” said the Prime Minister.
A colourful 45-minute cultural show marked the ceremony, with a number of top dignitaries, led by Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik, Union Minister of Petroleum, Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan and Union Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports Kiren Rijiju, witnessing the show.
As many as 4,000 spectators enjoyed the immaculately conceived ceremony inside the stadium even as scores watched it on LED screens just outside the stadium.
After the stupendous success of the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati last month, the Indian Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to take it to the next level by hosting the Khelo India University Games (KIUG). The Odisha government promptly stepped forward and put everything in place in less than a month.
The KIYG officially began on Friday morning with competitions in archery, fencing, football, basketball and volleyball. It is the largest ever multi-discipline sports event being conducted at one venue for university students and hopes to unearth talented sportspersons for India.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “It is a moment of great pride for us to be hosting the first edition of the Khelo India University Games here in Odisha in association with the Government of India and the KIIT University. Khelo India University Games will provide a great platform to showcase sporting talent at the national level.
“Some of the athletes will return with medals, some with experience and all with great memories from the Games. I welcome all of you to the sport-loving state of Odisha. And, on behalf of the Government and people of Odisha, I wish all the athletes the very best for their sporting events,” Patnaik said.
Rijiju, during his address, said that the people of India will definitely see many international champions coming out of the Khelo India University Games. “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 for athletes to interact with one another to share expertise. I’m confident that through initiatives such as the Khelo India Youth Games and the Khelo India University Games, India will have more stars in the future.”
The opening ceremony was a glittering affair with 390 students performing and showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Odisha. Aruna Mohanty choreographed a sequence which showcased dance forms such as Odissi and Sambalpuri.
The torch relay which kick-off the Games was led by India archer Muskan Kirar who passed on the baton to swimmer S.P. Likith who handed over the torch to former India hockey player Dilip Tirkey who lit the cauldron. The oath taking ceremony for the athletes was led by ace sprinter Dutee Chand who is taking part in the Khelo India University Games.