Shillong, May 3: The 4th Meghalaya Games 2022 was officially opened by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma at an exciting yet intimate opening ceremony at the SSA Stadium, First Ground, here today.
The CM, who is also the chief patron of the Games, congratulated the Meghalaya State Olympic Association, which in collaboration with the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, is hosting the event of 19 disciplines and some 2,500-plus athletes.
In a big development, he announced that next year’s edition will take place in Tura, with the 2024 event to be held in Jowai.
“This is one of the events to mark 50 years of statehood and in 50 years this is only the fourth Meghalaya Games and the second in the last four years,” the Chief Minister said. The Meghalaya Games was revived by the state government in 2020 and Sangma said, “This speaks tons about the intention of the government and interest and importance we give to sports and, more importantly, the youth of our state.”
With a growing population of youngsters – 22 lakh below the age of 25 at present – it is very important that Meghalaya give the youth the opportunity to participate in the sports they love, pursue their dreams as sportspersons and showcase their talent, he added.
It was thanks to the personal intervention of the CM that the athletes received an upgrade in their accommodation for the Games yesterday.
“There are a lot of challenges and nothing starts readymade,” he explained. “It is not a case of plug and play – we must appreciate the MSOA for taking up the challenge with the Department.”
Encouraging the athletes to be disciplined, he stated, “This moment will define who you will become and shape your character. Enjoy it, learn from it and embrace discipline.”
The CM received a huge cheer from the gathered athletes when he announced that the Games will be an annual event. On the decision to take the event to other parts of the state in future, he explained that there are two reasons for this – to expand sports infrastructure there and to give the young athletes a chance to experience the diversity of Meghalaya first-hand.
Among the other dignitaries on the occasion were Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh, who is also the ex-officio President of the Meghalaya State Olympic Association, and Mawphlang MLA and Indian football legend Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
“We approached the Chief Minister to revive the Games ahead of 2020 under the tenure of the MDA government because we are very determined to encourage sports and our athletes,” Banteidor said. “We need to give them (the athletes) the best so that they reach the pinnacle. Meghalaya Games is here to provide opportunities for athletes, boost their morale and overall competitive spirit, along with bringing them and the Association together.”
He also celebrated the move to increase the number of disciplines this year to 19. The MSOA Working President, John F Kharshiing, in his welcome address, noted that there were only nine disciplines conducted in the first Meghalaya Games in 2001.
Although there have been challenges in accommodating all the athletes, much of this is down to the fact that the JN Sports Complex is undergoing significant and extensive renovations and upgrades, resulting in space constraints.
“All this infrastructure is for the benefit of our athletes,” the minister said. He also encouraged other sports associations that are not yet affiliated with the MSOA to complete the process so that their sportspersons can take part in future Meghalaya Games.
“I am very delighted for all of you being able to participate and I trust you will do so with the right sporting spirit. Your baby steps today will lead to giant steps tomorrow,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Kharshiing thanked the state government for its support, saying that the event is “full of challenges but opportunities as well. The huge interest shows that children want to come and participate. He also thanked the athletes for coping with the limitations in accommodation and promised improvements.
Also included in the opening ceremony was a march-past of athletes, oath-taking administered by star Meghalaya karateka Wandahunshisha Mawblei and the performance of songs and cultural dances. The North East Small Finance Bank also sponsored equipment for two elite shooters of the state – Anjali Singh and Dennyson Kyrsian. These were presented to the shooters by the Chief Minister.
(Meghalaya State Olympic Association photos)