I am informed that Kerala State is hosting the National Games after a gap of 27 years as it had hosted National Games in 1987. However, this time it is spread over 7 districts. I am glad that the Government of Kerala has taken a very judicious decision to construct 365 pre-fab houses for athletes and officials, instead of constructing mega infrastructure for Games Village. I am also happy that Kerala Government has created a state-of-the-art infrastructure for hosting the 35th National Games and also beautify the different venues where the various sports disciplines will be played.
I know well that Kerala is for its supremacy in sports and has given many legendary sportsperson like Olympian athlete T.C. Yohannan, Late Suresh Babu, the sprint queen P.T. Usha, Shiny Wilson and M.D. Valsamma, K.M. Beenamol, Anju Bobby George, Sinimol Paulose, Angel Mary Joseph, Mercy Kuttan, K. Saramma, K.C. Rosakutty and Padmini Selvan, who are the recipient of Padmashree and Arjuna Awards. Keralas indigenous games and marital art has given many modern sports disciplines.
I am told that there are 33 sports disciplines in these Natinoal Games and a total 11,641 participants including 7744 athletes competing for 365 Gold Medals and equal number of Silver Medal and 477 Bronze Medals. I am sure that this 15 days events will give the sportspersons not only an opportunity to prove their excellence but also provide a international level infrastructure to compete and nurture themselves through sportsman spirit.
I would like to appeal to the sports fraternity to come forward and join the Honble Prime Ministers Swachh Bharat Mission and contribute towards cleanliness of your own sports facilities.
Healthy people make a healthy nation. If everybody is active and healthy, they can lead a happy life besides being more productive economically.
The importance of health in our country is acknowledged over the ages through the saying Aarogyame Maha Bhagyam which means Health is Wealth.
That being the case, things are different today. Our country is fast emerging as the diabetic capital of the world. It is because of modern life styles, food habits and declining physical activity. This is a serious socio-economic challenge for our country.
We have great sporting traditions.
While the present day archers are struggling to hit fixed targets, ages ago, Arjuna hit the rotating Fish that is Matsya +Yantra to defeat his fellow contenders and win over Draupadi.
Wrestling (Malla Yuddham) is another ancient sport in our country. There are several other sport forms in different parts of the country that test the physical as well as mental faculties.
But with changing times, we have come to lag behind in sports in the international arena. There is some thing seriously wrong with our priorities and approaches.
In no time, China has emerged as a leading sporting nation even topping medal tables in international arena. They have a different system to promote sports in a focused manner but certainly there is no justification for us to lag so much behind.
It is high time we promote sports in a systemic and serious manner not just for winning medals in international competitions but to ensure better health of our youth. We shall not forget that our country has the largest number of youth in the world. If they are not healthy, alert and active, it will have serious implications.
The best way of promoting the culture of sports among the youth is to catch them young and inculcate among them the love for sports.
It needs to be done through effective awareness campaign about the advantage of sports and physical activity and also through necessary incentives.
Our educational policy has come to be faulty with more emphasis on learning by rote(memorizing) and marks and ranks. There is no effort for all round development of personality of our millions of students, of which, sports shall be an important and integral component.
In the US and other countries, good sportsmen are encouraged through attractive fellowships and admissions in prestigious institutions. There is competition for such students.
But in our country, we only go by marks, grades and ranks. Then where is the incentive for dedicating time for sports?
In our early days, there used to be regular hours and periods for sports, drill etc. It is a rarity now. Most of the schools run in concrete buildings without play grounds of any kind.
School and college curriculum should be recast with at least 10% weightage for sports, quotas in admission for students who does well in different sports, reservation in jobs etc.
I am sorry to note that several of our medal winners end up as ticket collectors in trains and clerks. This is no way to promote sports.
Our Sports Promotion Policy should be such that promising and potential sports persons in different sports should be identified at relatively young age and should be given education in special schools and colleges and they should be fully taken care of till they retire from sports and take up regular employment.
This kind of an enabling environment will promote interest in sports. This will help our country of over 120 crore people do well at international level besides promoting the culture of sports among our youth.
There should be special effort to promote rural sports through district and state level meets regularly with attractive incentives.
At a different level, sport power of a country adds to its stature in the global scheme of things as had happened in the case of China.
We have come to be a one game nation given our fancy for cricket. Even in that, we are not consistent.
Things have now begun to change. The football, badminton and Kabaddi leagues started recently have come to be popular. We should do the same for other sports like archery, wrestling etc.
Kerala has been in the forefront of promoting sports with several sportsmen from the state bringing honours for the country.
I am glad to be associated with the inauguration of this National Games in Kerala.
I wish all the participants success.
The spirit of participation is as important as winning medals.
I am sure these Games will be a big success and we will be able to spot new talent.
I compliment the Union Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Kerala Government for their efforts.
I convey my best wishes to the Government of Kerala for holding the National Games as scheduled from 31st January to 14th February, 2015 as it has to be conducted in every two years but after the National Games at Guwahati in 2007, the next National Games was conducted in Ranchi in 2011 and now this 35th National Games is being organized in 2015.
In congratulate all the participants best of their performance. I also convey my best wishes to officials and organizers who are putting in their best efforts to conduct the National Games in Kerala in the most befitting manner matching the international standard.