Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire and unite the youth like nothing else can. Following these lines, the government of India has taken an ambitious step of ‘Khelo India’ to build an inclusive and comprehensive sports ecosystem in the country.
The initiative commenced with Khelo India School Games that was opened in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi. “Sports is an important means of personality development and Khelo India is not a programme, it’s a mission. The Games will highlight India’s young sporting talent and showcase India’s sports potential,” the Prime Minister stated.
The project, envisaged by former Sports Minister Vijay Goel but was revamped by his successor Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, will lay emphasis on inculcating sports into the day to day lives of youngsters early on in their lives. The Games concentrates on creating a platform to showcase hidden talent, fostering young sports prodigies and creating awareness and cognizance about physical fitness as well as good health amongst youngsters. “The Khelo India Games will be held every year and will be broadcast live every year,” Rathore said.
Over the next nine days, India will witness over 3750 school athletes, taking part in 16 disciplines under which there are 199 gold medals, 199 silver medals and 275 bronze medals. There are 1250 officials and over 800 volunteers participating in the event.
Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister said, “When we say India has to grow on the world stage, it does not only mean having a strong army and powerful economy. It includes people of India distinguishing themselves as scientists, artists, sportsperson. I am confident India will scale these heights. I trust our youth.”
The opening ceremony of the Games showcased the rich ‘teacher and student’ tradition referred to as the ‘Guru-Shishya Parampara’ in a grand style. Some of the legendary ‘Gurus’ and their famous ‘Shishyas’ featured in the programme that gave due recognition to the coaches who teach basics to their students and help them become elite athletes. This initiative was taken keeping in mind Rathore’s recent indication that the government is revamping the incentives scheme to encompass all coaches who have been instrumental in an athlete’s journey from the early days through the development stage to international acclaim. “We have some wonderful examples of coaches playing a big role in the rise and success of Indian sportspersons and it will be great to bring the tradition back in focus,” he said.
Khelo India School Games will be held at multiple venues across Delhi including Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Karni Singh Shooting Range and Dr. SPM Swimming Complex. The program encompasses disciplines such as Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Shooting, Swimming, Volleyball, Weightlifting and Wrestling. “In your busy schedules, devote time to games, give priority to playing. Today, we have in our midst eminent sportspersons. I am sure they would have faced many obstacles but they did not give up and went on to distinguish themselves,” Narendra Modi said in his inaugural speech.
The Prime Minister also declared that the government would provide every possible help to talented youngsters in grassroot level. “These are also youngsters who need support, which we want to provide. We have decided to select 1000 kids every year from different sports and provide them Rs 5 lakh per annum for 8 years,” he said.
Also present on the occasion were Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Indian Olympic Association President Narender Batra and President of School Games Federation of India Sushil Kumar.