The first edition of the South Asian winter games was inaugurated by the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank here today.

Renowned sufi singer Kailash Kher and others presented a colourful programme at the opening ceremony before the Chief Minister declared the games open in the indoor stadium of Maharana Pratap sports complex here.

A number of dignitaries including Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva, Union Minister of State for sports and youth affairs Pratik Patil and several state ministers besides hundreds of sports lovers and athletes from home and abroad, were also present on the occasion.

Union Sports Minister M S Gill was supposed to inaugurate the games, held in Dehra Dun and Auli, but could not make it to the function because of poor health.

Speaking on the occasion, Nishank welcomed the participating athletes from South Asian countries to Uttarakhand and extended his best wishes for the games.

Nishank also thanked the SAF authorities for choosing India, especially Uttarakhand for hosting first winter games.

He even expressed hope that Auli and Dehra Dun would become favourite winter sports destination at the global level as the ice-rink at Dehra Dun and skii slopes at Auli are world-class and meet the international standards.

During the opening ceremony, the participating nations — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and hosts India marched in with their national flags.

As the capacity of the indoor stadium was limited, hundreds of sports enthusiasts were seen enjoying the opening ceremony on the large screens put up in the complex.

While Auli in Chamoli district would host skiing events from Jan 14 to 16, Dehra Dun would organise ice-skating events from Jan 10-12.

Nearly 300 participants from India and six other South Asian countries are taking part in the winter games.

There will be three disciplines in each of the skiing category — Alpine (Downhill), Nordic (Cross-country) and snowboard and ice-skating — short-trek speed skating, ice-hockey and figure skating.

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