I would like to extend my greetings to everyone on the occasion of Basant Panchami. May Goddess Saraswati bless us with the infinite knowledge and wisdom! Whenever there has been the era of knowledge, it is India that has shown the way to the entire world. The 21st century is a century of knowledge and with the blessings of Ma Saraswati, may our nation yet again show the way forward to the humankind.
This morning I met former Indian cricket captain and one of the greatest Indian sportsmen Kapil Dev in Gandhinagar. We all remember the Indian Cricket Team led by Kapil Dev lifting the cricket World Cup in 1983- it is an event that is etched in the memory of every Indian!
In Gujarat, the last month has been an extremely sporty one! Yesterday I attended the concluding ceremony of Khel Mahakumbh 2012-2013. It was wonderful to be among the most talented sportspersons from all over Gujarat. People cutting across all age groups immersed itself in this unique sports extravaganza that celebrates sports and sportsmanship.
When we commenced the Khel Mahakumbh during Gujarat's golden jubilee year, we had 13 lakh athletes participating in the various events. Today, in a span of three years that figure has increased to over 25 lakh, which includes over 8 lakh women athletes who added greater strength to the Khel Mahakumbh. A total of 72 records were broken during the Khel Mahakumbh out of which 43 were by sportsmen whereas our sportswomen broke 29 records!
This year's Khel Mahakumbh saw over 92,000 specially-abled athletes participate in various sporting events. To see them shine on the sports field is one of the most satisfying aspects of the Khel Mahakumbh. Each and every one of them has overcome several obstacles to reach here and I wholeheartedly salute them for the their grit and their ‘never say die' spirit! It is truly an inspiration for every one of us.
We are making every effort to promote a culture of sports among the specially abled. Last year, the Special Olympics family wrote to us, acknowledging the true spirit of the Khel Mahakumbh. During the ceremony yesterday I felicitated Ms. Maya Devipujak, a specially-abled athlete from Gujarat who won the gold medal at the World Winter Games (Special Olympics) that were held in South Korea recently. Her humble background did not prevent her from determinately pursuing her dreams and scaling great heights of accomplishments and I can say that the entire Gujarat is proud of her achievement.
Two Khel Mahakumbhs this year
Had it not been for the longest election code of conduct in Gujarat through the last part of 2012, we would have held the Khel Mahakumbh in 2012 itself. However, this year we will have two Khel Mahakumbhs- one that just concluded and the 2013 Khel Mahakumbh later this year. Apart from giving a boost to sports, Khel Mahakumbh also looks at capacity building on the sports field. We are not only looking at players but also all facets associated with sports.
As far as sports are concerned, there is one issue that has been bothering for the last few days. I was dismayed to read that the International Olympic Committee is thinking of dropping wrestling from the Olympics from 2020 that too on the flimsy pretext of ‘modernity.' There is no bigger insult to sports than the fact that a game, which has been a part of human civilisation from time immemorial, be dropped from the world's most prestigious sporting event on the grounds of ‘modernity.' There is no room for such ‘games' in sports!
Oppose dropping of wrestling
In India, Kushti is mentioned from the time of the Mahabharata. In the Olympics as well, several Asian nations have been doing very well in the sport. Thus, it is our duty that all Asian nations- Governments and people must join ranks and stand shoulder to shoulder to oppose this unilateral and unfortunate decision. We do not need to be wrestlers only to speak out against this- as lovers of sport we need to raise our protests. And we should not wait till September 2013 when the final decision will be taken but we must act now!
I hope the IOC takes a decision that is in the interest of sports and the players and not one driven by any other considerations.