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Khelo India Winter Games kicked off in J&K

Heat of competition: A snow rugby game under way at Gulmarg in Baramulla district on Saturday.

Heat of competition: A snow rugby game under way at Gulmarg in Baramulla district on Saturday.

With awareness posters on COVID-19 dotting the snow-bound venue of Gulmarg, the first Khelo India Winter Games began in north Kashmir on Saturday, the first mega sports event to be held in the Valley since the Centre revoked J&K’s special status last August.

“This is a historic event not only for J&K but the whole country. Those who are here today at this place are lucky. This is the beginning of mega sports events in Gulmarg. More mega events are in the pipeline for this place,” Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju said, while inaugurating the games.

900 athletes

Nearly 900 sportspersons from 20 States are participating in 30 events , including snowboarding, skiing, cross-country games and a snow show at the venue located at an altitude of 8,694 feet.

The Centre has decided to set up a national excellence centre of winter sports in Gulmarg. “It will be a residential facility financed by the Centre where professional winter games athletes will be trained for world-class competitions. Besides, coaches of different sports categories will be given ₹5 lakh for setting up sports centres across J&K,” Mr. Rijiju said.

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Farooq Khan, Adviser to the J&K Lieutenant-Governor, termed the event “a game changer for bringing J&K back on the track of prosperity and development”.

With COVID-19 scare gripping J&K after the administration on Saturday closed primary schools in six districts, the event has come in for criticism.

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“The whole world is on a high alert and is putting precautionary measures in place, including cancelling all small and big events, to contain the spread. Having an event like Khelo India Winter Games in Gulmarg between March 7 and 11 is highly irresponsible. The event has created a hysteria among the masses, and if such gatherings add to the number of the infected, the government should completely be held responsible,” said Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, chairman of the J&K RTI Movement.

Screening points

Responding to the criticism, Mr. Rijiju said, “Five screening layers have been set up from the Srinagar airport up to the venue. It’s all well managed. There is no need to worry.” Scores of posters on how to battle COVID-19 have been pasted at multiple points in Gulmarg to educate the participants about the precautions to take.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2022 7:45:12 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/khelo-india-winter-games-kicked-off-in-jk/article61965827.ece