Chhatrapati Shivaji's statue unveiled at 2008 CYG venue

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Pune, Oct 4 (UNI) The equestrian statue of the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji was today unveiled amidst great pomp and show at the venue of the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) to be held from October 12 to 18 at Mhalunge-Balewadi near here.

The statue was formally unveiled by the two descendents of the Maratha king - Chhatrapati Shahu of Kolhapur and Chhatrapati Udyan Raje Bhosale of Satara while a huge gathering broke into chants of ''Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji''.

Carved in bronze, the 22-foot-high statue being the tallest among all and weighing approximately five tonnes was installed at the befitting venue which has attracted over 2000 young and aspiring sportspersons from 71 countries of the Commonwealth nations.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President and the Chairman of the 2008 CYG Suresh Kalmadi, MP, termed the newly created infrastructure facilities at the venue as ''world class'' which would help the sportspersons to excel and garner medals to put Maharashtra and the country among the top comity of nations.

Terming the 2008 CYG as trial games before the 2010 Commonwealth Games, he said, ''The event has to be an outstanding success as it will come in the focus of the world. It was my dream which has been fulfilled today by the installation of the statue. It was the efforts of the sportspersons who came together and helped in raising funds for the creation of the statue. It was made due to the donation and contribution from the people. We have not taxed the government in any way,'' Mr Kalmadi said.

Recalling the golden period of the Maratha kingdom under Shivaji's reign, Chhatapari Udyan Raje said that in the fitness of things, the statue would be a permanent source as an inspiration to the budding and talented sportspersons from Maharashtra.

''The installation being done ahead of the third edition of the CYG which is being hosted for the first time in the country and that too in Pune will be an added incentive for sportspersons to garner medals to put the country on the highest pedestal.'' He made an appeal that the prefix Commonwealth be dropped and replaced suitably so that the spirit of the games was maintained in future competitions as well.

Echoeing similar sentiments, Kolhapur's Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj also skirted round the 350-year-old history of the Maratha dynasty and the role played by Shivaji Maharaj whose secular ideology was the binding force in warding off external aggressions. It was some 80 years back when the first statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji was installed at the Shri Shivaji Preparatory Military School (SSPMS) in Pune, he pointed out.

''But today the giant equestrian statue and the most modern infrastructure facilities not only reflect the bygone era but, at the same time, will always inspire the budding sportspersons to excel in their choice of sport disciplines.'' Maharashtra Olympic Association(MOA) Secretary General Prof Balasaheb Landge and the Association Treasurer Chandrakant Shirole presented a cheque of Rs one lakh to Mr Kalmadi on the occasion.

Likewise, another cheque of Rs one lakh was given by athlete Avinash Bagwe from Krantiveer Lahuji Wastad Pratishthan towards the statue.

Maharashtra Minister for Marketing Harshwardhan Patil and Education and Sports minister Vasant Purkhe also spoke on the occasion.

A colourful procession enacting pages from the Maratha reign with horsemen and sword fighters carrying a big photograph of the Shivaji in a ''Palki'' came to the place where the statue was to be formally unveiled.

The Statue Committee Secretary and also the Joint Convenor of the Games Technical Conduct Committee (GTCC) Prahlad Sawant proposed a vote of thanks just before a heavy cloudburst sent the people and the dignitaries helter skelter. A large number of former Olympian Sports administrators Arjuna and Chhatrapati awardees besides politicians graced the occasion.

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