GUWAHATI: The ongoing Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) is one of the largest domestic sporting exercises ever held in the country. The games CEO Avinash Joshi took time from his busy schedule to discuss a number of issues at the Sarusajai Sports Complex, including their efforts to make this the biggest such games ever and the challenges thrown by the eruption of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the state last month...
Was there a conscious decision by the state to make KIYG this big?
When we took the decision to host the third edition of the Khelo India Youth Games 2020 in Guwahati, our honourable chief minister was very keen that it should be much better and bigger than the earlier two editions. The opening ceremony was witnessed live by at least 24 or 25 thousand people. We have 20 disciplines. If you take the (fact that there are) U-17 and U-21 boys and girls, then that’s 4X20, almost eighty disciplines. The number of athletes is higher than the earlier two editions, almost 6500.
Plus there are technical officials, coaches and managers, another 3500. We have roped in almost 1000 general volunteers and 400+ sport-specific volunteers. So altogether, we are looking at almost 12000 people. The challenge in Guwahati is that we don’t have a centralised sports complex. So there are 11 venues, at eight locations. We don’t have a games village either. So we are keeping everybody in 170+ hotels.
Have you set a precedent that is difficult to be repeated?
I can tell you sincerely that we have done our best. You can see the result. If you go to any of the venues, things are so well managed. There will be hiccups here and there when you’re dealing with 12000 people from 37 states and union territories. But by and large, the athletes are satisfied. Transportation again, we have roped in 600 buses and cars.
Did you do a lot of work to renovate infrastructure?
We had the last large multi-disciplinary event in 2016 — the South Asian Games. It’s now four years so there were repairing and refurbishment required. The state Public Works Department has done a wonderful job in less than two months. They have renovated almost all 11 venues. Other than infrastructure, there was a need to purchase equipment. That also, we did in as short a time as possible. In shooting where we have spent the most money, we brought in `5.5cr worth of equipment from abroad. And those are of international standards. So maybe when the games get over, we will have a national centre of excellence for shooting in Guwahati.
Is the shooting range here one of the best?
The Kahilipara shooting range is one of the best. The location is in the police battalion premises. There was a request from the Govt of India if, after the games, we could have a centre of excellence there.
Did the CAA protests stall your preparations?
We suffered for seven days. But since we prepared well in advance, we were able to cope. There were strong protests for 2-3 days which impacted us. But ultimately, after (December) 16 or 17, we were on track.
Will any union ministers be here for closing ceremony?
We are expecting the chief minister along with the union sports minister. We are exploring the possibility of having some more dignitaries from the state and central government. We are looking at a bigger closing ceremony. The CM is keen it should be outside, that it should not be in the indoor stadium. He’s expecting a crowd of at least 8 to 10 thousand people.
Have you had to take any special security measures?
For the opening ceremony, all the security measures were in place. In Assam, the people are very enthusiastic about sports. There are security provisions, but people are not deterred from entering the campus. We’ve also kept all these venues free for the public. We are putting the fixtures on our website, on newspapers, on social media, so that people know which games, which date and what time.