Shillong, Sep 26: The second edition of the North East Olympic Games will be hosted by Meghalaya as part of its 50th anniversary of statehood celebrations in November 2022 and Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has encouraged all stakeholders, from players to coaches, officials and everyone involved, to dream big.

Sangma, the chief guest, was speaking at the curtain raiser of the Games, which was held at Pinewood Hotel here today evening. The CM unveiled the Games’ logo, the official mascot NEO (pictured), a clouded leopard, which is Meghalaya’s state animal, and launched the Games’ website and information booklet.

The mega regional sporting event – to be held from 10th to 16th November – returns after four years, with the inaugural event having taken place in Manipur in 2018. There will be 3,000-plus athletes plus officials and spectators at the NEOG 22 taking part in 18 disciplines.

Also present on the occasion were Chief Secretary DP Wahlang, Commissioner & Secretary at the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs Vijay Kumar, Secretary at the Health and Family Welfare Department RM Kurbah, DSYA Under Secretary Shivansh Awasthi, East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner Isawanda Laloo and Meghalaya State Olympic Association Working President John F Kharshiing, among other dignitaries.

The Meghalaya government has given the Games its full support as a way to also celebrate 50 years of Meghalaya statehood.

“I congratulate and thank the Meghalaya State Olympic Association and Department of Sports and Youth Affairs for working very hard to organise the North East Olympic Games in Meghalaya. It is a great milestone and all stakeholders have worked very hard to achieve this and bring it together,” the Chief Minister said in his short speech. “There is still lots to be done but I am sure the way the officials are working that no stone will be left unturned and I am sure that these will be the best Games that the state and the North East have ever seen.”

He mentioned that the Meghalaya government has been working hard over the last four and a half years, two of which saw the state in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, to see that the youth are able to excel and participate in the sports they love.

“Two things drive us – first, to see our youth get medals at the National Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics. If other states can do it why not we? First step to realising this is to understand that achieving the goal will require a lot to be done at various levels. Our youth are second to none and have huge talent but it needs to be shaped and encouraged so that they can win medals. The second thing is we strongly feel that the youth need to be focused on. Meghalaya has a large youth population and engaging the youth through sport is very important for us so that we produce young, talented, responsible citizens,” the CM said.

Sangma also referred to the recent talent identification programme, which saw teams visit each of the 12 districts to conduct a series of standardised physical tests in which close to 5,000 youth took part. This was conducted by the MSOA and DSYA to identify budding talent through a scientific approach and plan to develop the bright prospects.

“There are challenges in holding a Meghalaya Games, North East Games and National Games but we improve and learn through these challenges. Whatever difficulties we face, we tackle them,” he said, noting that many North East states ¬†are following Meghalaya’s lead in holding state-level multi-disciplinary events; it was under the current Meghalaya government that the Meghalaya Games were revived after several years.

The Chief Minister also encouraged the 12 athletes that Meghalaya is sending to the 36th National Games in Gujarat and presented them with mementoes. Monetary aid was also disbursed to the 18 state associations to help them prepare for NEOG 22 through selection trials and coaching camps.

Although he was not able to be physically present for the function, Sports & Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh sent a message to the gathering, saying “I wish to express my solidarity and joy at my state being given this opportunity to provide a platform that will showcase the immense sporting talent that our rich North East region possesses. This is a humble beginning and I am confident that the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, along with the generous and capable support of the MSOA will deliver to the fullest and I believe Meghalaya will set a landmark that others will try to follow.”

The Chief Secretary also noted that NEOG 22 will be a massive undertaking and encouraged all the organisers to take a consistent and dedicated approach using due diligence. He added that he was confident, given the way Meghalaya co-hosted the South Asian Games in 2016, that the event will be a successful one.

Kumar said it was a huge privilege for Meghalaya to be able to host NEOG 22 and apt to hold something on this scale during the 50th year of statehood.

(Photo contributed)

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