Aspiring to host the Olympics in future, Gujarat will gain some first-hand experience at organising a multi-sport event when the 36th National Games will be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the stadium named after him here on Thursday.
Following the 2015 Kerala edition and the cancellation of the Goa edition, the National Games is being held after seven long years. The Gujarat Government relied on its existing infrastructure in six cities — Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Vadodara, Surat, Bhavnagar and Rajkot — to make the mega event possible in 90 days.
Only the cycling track event is being hosted by Delhi.
Athletes from 36 units (States and Services Sports Control Board) will compete in 35 disciplines after handball was dropped at the last minute due to an internal squabble. With stress on indigenous sports, malkhamba and yogasana will make their debuts in the Games.
Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra and Olympic medallist P.V. Sindhu — who were incidentally present at a build-up event graced by Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Wednesday — will not take part due to injuries, but several others stars are expected to participate.
While top paddlers Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra have already competed in Surat, Olympic silver medallist weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, boxer Shiva Thapa, swimmers Sajan Prakash, Srihari Nataraj and Maana Patel and archers Atanu Das and Tarundeep Rai will be seen in action in the coming days.
For younger athletes, the sporting extravaganza will be an opportunity to get an experience of competing in a multi-sport event before they represent the nation. The organisers have also made arrangements for the athletes to experience the rich culture of Gujarat, as the Games is coinciding with the festive Navratri season.
On the whole, the National Games will provide a new experience for Gujarat’s people, who are more used to seeing world-class cricketers than top athletes from other sports.
Irrespective of the Games being staged in the backdrop of the forthcoming elections in the state, the Gujarat Government has taken a novel step by using the initiative to reach out to people in urban and rural areas as well.
The host state has not only made its best effort from an organisational point of view, but has also ensured that opportunity is given to its athletes by fielding the biggest contingent.
The next two weeks will tell whether the Games leave an impact on the sporting scenario of the country.