Athletes brave odds ahead of historic Khelo India Youth Games
In the buildup to the Khelo India Youth Games, the official broadcaster’s campaign ‘5minuteaur’ blared regularly on TV and electronic mediums, calling youngsters to go the extra mile in sports. A day before the Games, the young guns had to bear with a similar kind of message, this time waiting for accommodation and registration.
Long queue of young athletes could be seen at the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, with the venues getting their final touch ahead of the Under-17 and Under-21 Games that will run till January 20 in Pune.
A total of 6,200 athletes from 29 states and seven Union Territories will be competing in 18 disciplines in one of the biggest youth Games in the country. However, not everybody had their focus on sport on the eve of the Khelo India Youth Games.
A Chef de Mission of a southern state, on conditions of anonymity, said: “There is zero coordination. We don’t know where to stay. There was no one at the railway station to pick us up. Now our main priority is to get hotels first. We are not the only state who have faced this problem.”
However, Narendra Sopal, Joint Director of Sports and Youth Affairs, Maharashtra: “We have 100 buses for the commuting athletes. There might be some confusion for some state teams whose athletes are arriving from different locations. We will sort this out soon.”
“Tenders of hotels were given to vendors and information is available on our Khelo India App as well. On few occasion athletes had not informed about the timing of their arrival so miscommunication happened otherwise most of things are on track.”
Sopal, however, has a bigger problem to handle: “We were asked to host the Games around two and half months back. We have tried our best to get things ready. But some of the high-end equipment to be used in competition are stuck in Mumbai with customs because of strike. If they would have arrived a day before the Games it would have been better.”
The opening ceremony of the Khelo India Games will have the presence of sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Interestingly, it will be held in the indoor badminton hall which has a capacity of close to 3,000, while the main stadium with a bigger capacity will not be hosting anything on opening day.
“The decision of organising the opening ceremony inside the badminton hall was not taken by us. Our duty was to get all the venues ready and deliver it to the SAI and we did that,” Sopal said. However, according to an official in the know, it was done to suit the broadcaster’s need.
On the track some of the biggest young names will be competing at the Khelo India Games. Kerala’s Jisna Mathew, who was part of India athletics squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Mizoram’s Jeremy Lalrinnunga, who made history by winning India’s first weightlifting gold medal in Summer Youth Olympics in Argentina last year, will be two of the biggest names.
In shooting Saurabh Chaudhary, 2018 Asian Games gold medallist, will also be a top draw while in wrestling Deepak Punia, World Junior championship freestyle silver medallist, is expected to dominate the mat.