In what is being dubbed as the first gender equal games, The 12th South Asian Games was inaugurated today by the Hon. Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi followed by a spectacular opening ceremony. The event was originally planned to be held in Delhi, but due to the elections and other uncertainties, it was postponed. Finally the rights for hosting the tournament were given to the North Eastern cities of Guwahati and Shillong. This is the third time it is being held in India after Kolkata(1987) and Chennai(1995).
Guwahati, the gateway of the Northeast is the largest city of the country’s northeast. It also houses Dispur, the capital of Assam. Shillong, the capital of the picturesque state of Meghalaya is a famous hill station. The region is known for its hospitality and beauty. With the joint hosting rights, this is the biggest ever sporting extravaganza to be held in the region. Also, the Northeast is home to sports loving folks, who if provided the chance have the potential to develop into world class stars.
The 12 day event will see members from the SAARC countries– namely Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka and India. These nations are home to one-fifth of the world’s population and will benefit competing against one another. Sri Lanka and India are participating in all 23 disciplines, whereas Nepal and Bangladesh are playing in 22 disciplines. Pakistan and Afghanistan are participating in 21 and 16 disciplines each, with Bhutan and Maldives taking part in 9 each.
The games mascot is “Tikhor”, a rhino cub who is sharp, naughty, sporty and modern. He is a motivator, friend and a messenger of peace, progress and prosperity. The game’s logo consists of 8 petals representing the eight countries which are participating and the colours are taken from the flags of each countries. The theme song is ‘Ei prithibi Ekhon Krirangon, Krira Hol Shantir Prangon’ by music maestro late Dr Bhupen Hazarika, which promotes sports as a symbol of peace and unifying factor.
The games will include 228 events in 23 disciplines and a total of 228 gold medals, 228 silver medals and 308 bronze medals will be given away in course of the event. The basketball competition which was scheduled to be a part of the games has now been scrapped by the International Basketball Federation due to some technical issues.
There will be a total of 1,377 male athletes and 1,105 female athletes while the total number of delegates for the games including players and officials is 3,333. India has the biggest contingent with 703 members. Nepal and Maldives have more female players in their contingent than male players.
There are also a number of famous players taking part in the games. PV Sindhu, the first Indian to win a Singles medal at the World Championship is expected to win a medal. Gagan Narang, a former World Champion and three time Olympian shooter will be an attraction at the shooting events. MC Mary Kom, one of the greatest Women Boxer ever is scheduled to be a part of the games. She is a five time World Champion and an Olympic medallist. Others include Dipika Pallikal, the first Indian to break into top 10 in WSA squash rankings and Jwala Gutta, Indian badminton Doubles specialist.
With the following stars scheduled to perform, it is expected the games are expected to be a success. Also the games provide the opportunity to present the Northeast to these countries and promote development in all spheres. Boxing, football, wushu, archery are some of popular sports in the region and the preparation that have been done for the games like the stadiums, and other facilities will come a long way to help the local budding talents to reach their potential.
India has still a long way to go before it can challenge the top medal contenders of Olympics. We still lack the necessary infrastructure necessary. These are the kind of events that will help nurture our talents and make India a force to reckon with in the future.
Wish all the participants the best for the games!