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New Delhi : The second edition of Khelo India Winter Games saw a grand launch on February 26, 2021, in Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir, as Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi inaugurated the sports meet virtually.

Union Youth Affairs & Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju was present during the ceremony at Golf Club, Gulmarg along with  Manoj Sinha, Lt. Governor, J&K, and a host of other dignitaries. The annual event, which made its debut last year in Ladakh and J&K, has been organised by the J&K Sports Council and the Winter Games Association of J&K under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. The sports meet will go on till March 2, 2021.

Prime Minister Modi delivered the inaugural address at 2nd Khelo India National Winter Games through video conference. Speaking on the occasion, he remarked that the number of players participating in this winter games from various states have doubled which demonstrates the increasing enthusiasm towards Winter Games. He said the experience from this winter games would help the players while participating in winter Olympics. He said winter games in Jammu & Kashmir would help in developing a new sporting ecosystem. He said this event would instill new spirit and enthusiasm in the tourism sector in Jammu & Kashmir. He said sports has become an area in which countries of the world project their soft power, according to a PIB release.

The PM said that sports have a global dimension and this vision has been guiding the recent reforms in the sports ecosystem. There is a holistic approach from the Khelo India Campaign to Olympic Podium stadium. Handholding of sports professionals is being done from recognition of talent at grassroot level to bringing them to the highest global platform. From talent recognition to team selection, transparency is the government’s priority. Dignity of sportspeople, and recognition of their contribution is being ensured, he said.

The Prime Minister asserted that sports has been given a place of pride in the recent National Education Policy. Sports, which was considered extra-curricular activity earlier, is now being treated as part of the curriculum and grading in sports will be counted in the education of the children. The Prime Minister informed that Institutes of Higher education and Sports University are being established for sports. He  exhorted the young sportspersons to remember that they are the brand ambassadors of Aatmnirbhar Bharat. The world evaluates India through their performance in the sports arena, the PM concluded.

Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju announced various plans to further develop the sports ecosystem in J&K. “We had announced that we will create a state-of-the-art winter sports academy here. Now, we are happy to inform that all the procedures are in place to get the world standard institute opened here soon. Funds have already been allocated.”

“Out of 100 small Khelo India Centres we had announced across all districts of the valley, 40 are already approved and the remaining 60 will be approved in the next financial year in Jammu. Retired players, coaches can run these centers and give back to sports while earning a dignified source of livelihood. We have also opened 2 KISCEs here focusing on the disciplines of Judo, Fencing and Rowing. In Srinagar too, we have decided on opening a water sports facility which may be completed by April or May. Also, we have decided to give a Khelo India academy accreditation to the Mata Vaishnodevi sports complex,”  Rijiju added.

The second edition of the Games will see a participation of over 1,200 people including 600 athletes across 27 States and Union Territories. The participation list of athletes also includes the Indian Army and the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports. The various sports disciplines include Sprint, Speed Skating, Ice Hockey, Figure Skating, Ice Stock, Giant Slalom, Snow Boarding, Vertical Race, Cross Country, Snowshoe, Long distance running, Ski Mountaineering, Skiing and Nordic Ski.

The J&K administration has put in place a special team of doctors and ambulances round the clock for the length of the event, along with a special team of the State Disaster Response Fund for relief and rescue operations. Last year, hosts J&K topped the medal tally with a total of 26 golds.