Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the first-ever Khelo India University Games here on Saturday 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 PM 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,” PM 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.
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.
Modi said the Khelo India University Games will provide a big platform for young athletes to fulfil 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.
“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 your, your family’s and India’s dreams forward.” 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 poor background, common people from tier 2, tier 3 cities. They have generated a new hope for the country,” Modi said.
“We are promoting transparency in identification and selection of athletes, which has resulted in better performances from our athletes at the international stage.”