SA Games begins with a bang in Guwahati

Guwahati, February 5

The 12th edition of the South Asian Games began here at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring the events open amidst a grand ceremony.

The much-awaited Games features eight South Asian nations in the regional sports extravaganza that includes 23 sports disciplines in both men and women’s sections. Nepal is the only third country to participate in all the sports events except for men’s hockey. Hosts India and Sri Lanka are the other two nations to field their athletes in all events. The events are being held in the North East cities of Guwahati and Shillong, which will organise a separate opening ceremony on Saturday.

Nepal has sent 384 athletes — 177 men and 187 women — in the SA Games, which is being held after five years since the events were held in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka in 2010. Swimmer Shreetika Singh led the Nepali team in the march past during the opening ceremony watched by Indian PM Modi, ministers, chief ministers of various states and high ranking officials along with thousands of cheering crowd.

The Nepali officials, however, changed the flag bearer at the last moment because of the no show of the shooting team in Guwahati. Shooter Sneha Rajya Laxmi Rana was nominated as the flag bearer. “The shooting team did not arrive on time and we were forced to change the flag bearer,” said National Sports Council Member Secretary Keshab Kumar Bista.

Indian PM Modi declared the Games open. “I declare the 12th South Asian Games open,” Modi said at the end of his speech amidst roaring crowd. “Guwahati is known for hospitality and known for sports. What amuses me today is the electrifying presence full of excitement and enthusiasm for this important international sports event on the banks of mighty Brahmaputra,” Modi said.

Modi urged the athletes to play for peace and prosperity. “The friendship you win in these 12 days and the memories you take back will let the spirit of gurukul prevail for two weeks,” said Modi. “I welcome our friends from SAARC countries to our country known for the culture of Atithi Devo Bhaba (Guests are gods). “This meet also suggests togetherness of all South Asian nations. No matter which country we are from, we all call South Asia our home,” Modi added.

Various athletes of India took a lap of honour with the torch before handing that over to star footballer Bhaichung Bhutiya, who took the torch to the centre of the stadium and lit the cauldron amidst huge roar from the crowd. The torch rally was held in different parts of India over the last month and more than 900,000 people got the opportunity to touch the torch.

M Ramachandran, Chairman of Indian Olympic Council and South Asian Olympic Council, said he was proud to be a part of the opening ceremony. “We have come under one umbrella to celebrate the Games after the 2010 Games in Dhaka. The athletes and officials meet with each other, perform and win medals to make their countries proud,” Ramachandran said. “All the stake holders including chief minister of Assam and Meghalaya have ensured a grand success of the Games. And many thanks to the contributors for their dedicated works to make this Games happen. I am sure many records will fall in this edition and I wish the athletes all the best,” he added.

Women’s team win

On the field, Nepali women football team began the campaign with a 3-0 victory over Bangladesh in Shillong. Nepal took an early lead through Dipa Adhikari in the second minute of the match, while skipper Anu Lama doubled the tally in the 17th minute and Niru Thapa made it 3-0 moments before the first-half whistle. In another match, India and Maldives played a goalless draw. After the day’s games, Nepal are at the top of the standing with three points. A total of five teams are participating in women’s football and top two will compete in final. In volleyball, Nepali teams lost their matches against Sri Lanka. The men’s team suffered a 25-10, 25-15, 25-10 defeat, while the women spikers went down 25-19, 25-14, 28-26. In Shillong, preliminary round of archery was held today and the competition will begin from Saturday.

Footballers’ no show

The men’s football team, which took part in a training session in the morning, did not turn up for the opening ceremony after the officials failed to deliver their accreditation cards and dress on time. Head coach Raju Kaji Shakya, goalkeeping coach Mrigendra Mishra and team manager Birat Krishna Shrestha desperately waited for the accreditation cards but the officials failed to meet the deadline. “The team was ready and waited for the accreditation cards and dress to attend the opening ceremony, but we were not provided with the necessary documents and dress,” said a member of

the team.

Basketball in doubt

The participation of basketball teams have come under doubt after the Asian Basketball Federation instructed its member nations not to take part in the 12th South Asian Games. The ABF move came after the Indian government formed a parallel committee of Indian Basketball Association. “We have received a letter from our Asian body,” accepted Lama Tendi Sherpa, President of Nepal Basketball Association and Secretary General of Nepal Olympic Committee. “We are trying to fix the problem and we hope to have a competition,” Sherpa added. The basketball tournament is scheduled to begin on February 11.

Hockey medal confirmed

GUWAHATI: Women’s hockey team is confirmed to return home with a medal from the 12th South Asian Games. Only three nations, Nepal, hosts India and Sri Lanka are taking part in the event and all are assured of medals. Nepali women’s hockey team is participating in the SA Games for the first time, while the men’s team is the only discipline — out of the total 46 — not entered by Nepal in the regional games. The women’s hockey tournament is beginning on Sunday at the Moullana Md Tayabullah Hockey Stadium in Guwahati.