Guwahati, Feb 5: The rich and diverse culture of India's Northeast was on display in all its splendour as curtains went up on the 12th South Asian Games in a colourful opening ceremony with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other dignitaries in attendance.
PM Modi declared the Games open at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium to mark the formal beginning of the 12-day event to be competed by more than 2600 athletes. Eight countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, besides India -- will be vying for the top honours in the Games to be co-hosted by Shillong.
"I declare the 12th South Asian Games open," Modi said amid cheers from a capacity crowd at the stadium. Present on the occasion were governors of Assam and Meghalaya, chief ministers of the two states, besides Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and IOA president N Ramachandran among others.
Postponed several times due to various reasons, the much -delayed but the biggest ever South Asian Games being held under the aegis of South Asian Olympics Council begins after a delay of four years.
The 'Gender Equal Games' will have 23 disciplines and 228 events, with all the sports having both men and women's sections for the first time, making this edition the biggest ever sporting spectacle in South Asia. There will be 228 gold, 228 silver and 308 bronze medals on offer this time.
The two North Eastern cities will play host to 3,333 athletes and officials. India, who had topped the medal tally in all the editions so far, have the largest number of participants with 521 athletes (245 women).