Modi opens South Asian Games in Guwahati

Guwahati, Feb 5 (IANS) Invoking the historical bond between the South Asian nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday appealed to sportspersons to play for peace, prosperity and in full vigour and enthusiasm so that they can remember the 12th South Asian Games even after they are over.

Declaring open the Games at a brightly-lit Sarusojai stadium here, Modi said that he felt “privileged and honoured to be among sportspersons from our neighbourhood and brothers and sisters from Saarc countries”.

“I welcome all of you to India, a country known for its culture of and to this beautiful city of Guwahati known for its hospitality and love for sports,” the prime minister said.

“What moves me today, is your electrifying presence, full of excitement and enthusiasm for this important international sports event on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra. Guwahati has come a long way since the days of Pragjyotishpur in ancient India. It is now a modern and vibrant city and a hub of all economic activities in the North-Eastern region of India,” he said.

“Young people in the North-East and especially here in Assam do not miss any opportunity to witness a good football match. This fame has spread so far and wide that the FIFA World Cup Under-17 which will be hosted first time in India in 2017 has chosen Guwahati as a prime venue for the event,” he said.

“This sports meet, for me signifies a perfect blend of 3 Ts — Talent, Teamwork and Togetherness. Among us is the best and most youthful talent from across South Asia. You are proud members of your team — it can be your team of the sport you play and a larger team of the nation you are representing.

At the same time, this meet also celebrates togetherness of all South Asian nations. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — no matter which country we are from, we all call South Asia our home,” he added.

The prime minister noted that the mascot of the Games ‘Tikhor’ represents a baby rhino, who is sharp and intelligent.

“It captures the spirit of sports persons and young sport lovers. The theme song of the games is “Ei prithivi ekhan krirangan, krira hol shantir prangan” sung by legendary late Bhupen Hazarika, a singer whose captivating voice left people spellbound — his song beautifully captures the spirit of South Asian Games, the spirit of peace, friendship and prosperity,” Modi said.

“My vision for South Asia is the same as my vision for India — Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. All South Asian countries are partners in our journey towards development. We the people living in Saarc countries comprise 21 per cent of the world’s population and contribute about nine percent to its economy. As we gather today to commence the 12th South Asian Games, for 23 sporting events covering both men and women, we bring sports-persons from all Saarc countries to India’s North-East and to this great city in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding,” he added.

“I am sure that as the Games proceed, this feeling of friendship trust and understanding will convert itself not only into sporting opportunities but also into business and tourism opportunities as well,” he said.

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