13th South Asian Games kicks off today

Kathmandu, November 30

The 13th edition of South Asian Games will officially kick off tomorrow after the opening ceremony at Dasharath Stadium.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari will declare the Games open at the three-hour programme, which will showcase the rich culture and diversity of Nepal at the newly reconstructed stadium.

Nepal is hosting the regional sporting extravaganza for the third time from December 1 to 10 in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Janakpur. Nepal is the birthplace of the regional meet. It started under the banner of South Asian Federation Games in 1984 and returned for the second time in 1999.

According to the Secretary of Ceremony Committee Kul Bahadur Gurung, around 8,000 artistes and performers will light up the stadium in the opening ceremony, which will begin with a three-minute laser light presentation on the 13th SA Games. Athletes and officials will then take part in a march-past with Olympian weightlifter Kamal Bahadur Adhikari bearing the national flag of Nepal.

After two-minutes of torch relay, SAOC flag will be taken to the march-past before it is hoisted. Four-time South Asian gold medallist and Olympian taekwondo athlete Deepak Bista will light the flame after a torch relay from Olympians Baikuntha Manandhar, Rajendra Bhandari, Nayana Shakya, Umesh Maskey and Debu Thapa.

Taekwondo player Ayasha Shakya will then take oath on behalf of athletes, while international badminton referee Deepak Thapa will do so on behalf of all the judges and referees. The opening ceremony will also feature SA Games song from renowned singers Kunti Moktan, Ananda Karki, Satya Raj Acharya and Indira Joshi among others, while Nepal APF performers will display the names of the seven participating nations through mass callisthenics.

Apart from using lights and digital display, the Ceremony Committee will also display a show of drones over the stadium. The ceremony will end with 20 minutes of fireworks in and around the stadium

More than 5,000 delegates, including 2,715 athletes, are participating in the regional meet that features 26 sports disciplines. Nepal is fielding the highest number of athletes — 596 — in all 26 sports disciplines. According to the Technical Committee, the SA Games powerhouse, India, has sent 487 athletes in 22 disciplines, while Sri Lanka has entered 564 athletes in 26 disciplines. Likewise, Bangladesh has sent 470 athletes in 25 disciplines, while Pakistan has registered 263 athletes in 18 sports. Bhutan (116) and Maldives (216) are taking part in 18 and 12 disciplines respectively.

The Games will offer a total of 1,115 medals — 317 gold, 317 silver and 481 bronze — with swimming being at the top with 38 gold medals. Athletics is offering 36 gold medals, while taekwondo is offering 29. Out of the 27 sports disciplines included in the SA Games, paragliding was cancelled after the sport failed to get minimum of three teams.

Chairman of the main organising committee and Minister of Youth and Sports Jagat Bahadur Sunar, President of South Asian Olympic Council and Nepal Olympic Committee Jeevan Ram Shrestha and National Sports Council Member Secretary and SAG Executive Committee Chairman Ramesh Kumar Silwal will address the gathering.

(Nepal’s Chef-de-Mission Pitamber Timsina hoisting the national flag during a ceremony on the eve of the 13th South Asian Games at the National Sports Council in Kathmandu, on Saturday.