The chief guest, athlete Shiny Wilson, who flagged off the marathon, and Indian Squash Coach Cyrus Poncha, who was the guest of honour, encouraged youngsters to take up sports.

The day that started with over 4,000 zealous youngsters trickling in on a misty morning to run a 9.9-km marathon to raise awareness about female infanticide and ended with a spirited music performance.

And, in between, a world record attempt by a VIT University student was celebrated and a campaign to get youngsters to vote was launched. The first day of Riviera 2014, a cultural and sports fest organised by VIT University, not only encapsulated the vibrant and the ingenious, but also set the tone for the rest of fest, which ends on Sunday.

Speaking about the growth of Riviera at the inauguration on Thursday, G. Viswanathan, Chancellor, VIT University, said what began in 2003 with around 2,000 students now attracts 22,000- 23,000 students. “The number may even reach 30,000,” he said.

At the inauguration, the thrust was on promoting sports. The chief guest, athlete Shiny Wilson, who flagged off the marathon, and Indian Squash Coach Cyrus Poncha, who was the guest of honour, encouraged youngsters to take up sports.

Ms. Wilson noted that it was heartening to see so many girls take part in Thursday’s marathon. Recollecting her struggles and achievements as an athlete, and the medals she won for the country, she spoke about how she proved her critics wrong by becoming a national champion just nine months after her pregnancy. “With hard work you can achieve anything,” she said. She urged youngsters, especially women to take up sports.

Mr. Poncha said that we have to ensure that sport becomes a lifestyle. After mementoes and cash prizes were given to the winners of the throw ball and cricket tournaments held earlier, K.S. Manikandan, a second-year MCA student’s attempt at breaking a world record at the fest was acknowledged.

From using borrowed helmets to getting like-minded people to support him, Manikandan recalled the struggles he faced to reach this point where he skated for 69 hours and 15 minutes. “I want to become a world champion,” he declared, adding, “according to the guidelines, we can take a 10 minute break every one hour, but I accumulated my breaks and took them only when required. I can skate for 6-12 hours straight.”

The one thing he looks forward to now is proper guidance and coaching to make it to the world championship. For this, he said that he had to graduate from quad skating, which he does now, to inline skating. He said that he is also pursuing research on hardware and software platforms for mobile phones.

Speaking about the scale of the student-driven fest, Amit Mahindrakar, Convenor, Riviera 2014, said that apart from 110 events, they have 20 sporting events and 14 workshops that cover diverse fields, such as dramatics, pottery and graffiti among others. “Adventure sports is an addition this year,” he said.

In the evening, the outdoor stadium at VIT came alive with ‘Style Check’ a fashion show judged by actor and television personality Rannvijay Singh and Miss Asia Pacific World, Srishti Rana. The day ended with performances by Salim-Sulaiman followed by singer Sakthisree Gopalan.

The Hindu is the media partner for Riviera 2014.