The initiation of 12th South Asian Games happened under a canopy of unprecedented security as the organisers of the first major international multi-sport event in the North East sought to plug the possibility of any breach.
With two more days to go for the opening ceremony, a security dragnet comprising around 11,600 personnel was thrown around the 12 venues and 86 hotels and guest-houses that are hosting the athletes and officials of the eight participating nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Nepal Sri Lanka and host India.
The team of khaki and camouflaged battledress, somewhat paled the bright adornments promoting the slogan of the games – Play for Peace, Progress and Prosperity. The roads leading to the stadiums and the hotels were lined with festoons and billboards sporting the mascot ‘Tikhor’ in different moods and gestures championing the spirit and the enthusiasm surrounding the event.
The local police and the central paramilitary are at the core of the arrangement to secure around 4500 athletes and the officials, who have started arriving at the venue. On the periphery are Army and Air Force, which have been kept on alert considering the various threat perceptions existing in the region which often sees political unrest. The Pakistan contingent arrived in batches with around 180 athletes making it to the venue till the evening. The focus of the security is more about the northern-western neighbour, which started arriving on Wednesday in batches. The athletes from other countries started arriving couple of days earlier to acclimatise with the conditions.
The Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is also an MP from the sate, had been overseeing the preparations with keen interest along with Assam Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, who is the chief patron of the Assam Olympic Association. There is an undercurrent of political rivalry between the two leaders representing different political entities, BJP and Congress. With the state elections a few months away, both are apparently trying to draw political mileage from the successful hosting of the Games. This could be made out from the numerous signages set up by the two political parties congratulating their leaders for making the Games happen.