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PM felicitates Melbourne heroes; assures athletes of incentives

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 5 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today felicitated Melbourne Commonwealth Games medal winners and assured them his government's commitment to encourage athletes with financial incentives so that they can do even better when the sporting extravaganza comes here in 2010.

Indian contingent won a whopping 50 medals -- 22 gold, 17 silver and 11 bronze -- to finish fourth in the 18th edition of the mega event in Melbourne.

''It's a matter of great pride for all of us. On behalf of the entire nation, I congratulate each and every one of the medal winners,'' the Prime Minister said in his keynote speech in a function to honour the athletes at his residence this morning.

''It's encouraging that we won medals in seven out of ten events and I hope we will do better when the Games shift to Delhi.'' Dr Singh also assured the athletes of better sporting facilities and adequate rewards on performance.

''Sports facilities need to be multiplied and sportspersons should have adequate incentives,'' the Prime Minister said after Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi drew his attention to the dwindling rewards and allowances to the sportspersons.

''I will not go into various issues but I hope the system will change,'' he said and added, ''I am confident that the (medal) tally goes up from Melbourne to Delhi.'' Afterwards, Dr Singh was introduced to each one of the medallists. The first one to be called upon was ace marksman Samresh Jung -- who won five golds and bagged the David Dickson Award for the Best Athlete in the Games -- followed by the first Indian to book a berth at the Beijing Olympics, Gagan Narang.

Earlier, Mr Kalmadi presented the Commonwealth Games flag to the Prime Minister.

Mr Kalmadi also called for a greater thrust on bringing technical knowhow and upgrading infrastructure as well as participation of the industry to raise the standard of sports in the country.

The IOA president also brought to the Prime Minster's notice the plight of athletes who received paltry sum in allowances.

''In Manchester Commonwealth Games 2002, our athletes got 35 dollars per day. In Athens Olympics in 2004 they received 50 dollars while it went down to just 20 dollars a day in Melbourne,'' he said and urged for the restoration of the amount.

Regarding the Delhi editon of the Games, he said, ''Indian performance at the Melbourne has helped us create interest in the industry for sponsorship and media rights and I can assure you that our income will exeed the expenditure in 2010.'' Among others, who attended the function were Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Army Chief Gen J J Singh.

UNI DH PDS DS1245

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