Over the past few years, Bhubaneswar has been the venue for big sporting events such as the 2018 Men's Hockey World Cup, 2019 Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, 2019 Hero Gold Cup 4-Nation Women's Football tournament. Odisha's capital city has continued to attract big-ticket events as it is one of the host cities for the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women's Football World Cup and will now host the first edition of the Khelo India University Games from February 22 to March 1 at the KIIT University.
Ahead of the event launch on Monday, Odisha's Minister of Sports and Youth Services, Tusharkanti Behera, spoke to Sportstar about the state's vision to identify and nurture young talent.
What was the reason for the decision to host the Khelo India University Games?
Sports is a priority sector in Odisha. Our Chief Minister's vision, “Sports for Youth, Youth for Future” is aligned with the Central Government’s sports initiatives, including FIT India and Khelo India initiatives, which aim to give a platform to youth to lead a healthy lifestyle and also make a future in sports.
Odisha has been hosting a bouquet of elite sports events over the last few years namely the Asian Athletics Championships, Men’s Hockey World Cup, Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, FIH Series Finals and the very recent Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, among others.
Hosting the first edition of KIUG is an apt way to create a multi-sport opportunity for participation of university athletes to test their sporting pedigree against their peers from around India. This will help to create a culture of sports in our community, build the value of sports in the higher education sector and contribute to a healthy and FIT society.
How did you go about planning for the event?
The first edition is being organised by the Government of Odisha in association with the Sports Authority of India, Association of Indian Universities, National Sports Federation and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and participating universities.
Stakeholders across these bodies came together with a common goal to identify talented athletes from across the country through KIUG and nurture the talent through guidance and developed infrastructure.
How many universities and athletes will feature in the games?
The KIUG-2020 Odisha, will have approximately 4,000 athletes from around 80-100 universities, apart from technical and supporting staff. The KIUG-2020 Odisha will have 17 sports disciplines (Individual events - Archery, Athletics, Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Swimming, Weightlifting, Wrestling; Team Games - Badminton, Basketball, Football, Hockey, table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Rugby, Kabaddi).
Who are the top athletes participating at the event?
This being the first edition we are hoping to see top athletes from across universities participating in the games. We can share specifics closer to the event.
What can athletes expect in terms of venues and facilities in Odisha?
KIIT has developed a sports environment that matches international standards and gives a truly global experience to athletes; all of which is provided to them on the campus. Sports activity in KIIT is facilitated by KIIT Stadium, 12 sports complexes with state-of-the-art swimming pools, outdoor courts, multi-purpose halls, and indoor stadiums distributed in different campuses. Sprawling over an area of 29 acre, KIIT Stadium has the capacity to hold day and night matches, and is a regular venue for Ranji Trophy matches.
Athletes will have access to all ultra-modern sports facilities and training, on par with any national level sports hostel or sports training centre, at the deemed University.
Besides sporting facilities, they will have access to hostel, transport and medical facilities alongside campus security and gymnasium.
Athletes, post their games, will have a chance to explore the cultural heritage of Odisha and the picturesque tourist destinations that the state has to offer. Arrangements will be made for their sightseeing.
What are the plans to take the event to the people, via television, digital streaming etc. Where can people watch and follow the events?
Doordarshan is our official broadcaster. This being the first edition of KIUG, we want to reach a large audience across the nation through live telecast of the games.
We also plan to stream key events across our social platforms and YouTube channels. Our Sports Odisha social handles collectively have a subscribers base of around 6 lakh. Complementing this would be the social campaigns of KIIT, SAI, and participating universities, which will significantly add traction for KIUG. In addition, there will be a dedicated event page set up prior to the commencement of the games. It will provide schedules, event updates, photos and highlights of the games.
What are your expectations from the event?
Sports and tournaments are fun, and provide opportunities to develop sporting skills and relationships with others. It is an event of massive scale involving youth and we expect a seamless and successful execution of the event. We are confident that participants will demonstrate highest level of sportsmanship and return to their states as ambassadors for KIUG and Odisha. We also feel the athletes who shine here will get a chance to elevate their careers to the next level through recognition and thereby better access to guidance and training. It will be a matter of pride for us to host them all and become a part of their sporting journeys.
What are your plans for women to take up sports after hosting the Hero Gold Cup 4-Nation Women's Football tournament?
Odisha has been given provisional clearance to be one of the hosts of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup 2020. This event will act as a benchmark for the young girls of the state to take up the sport of football with more zest. Traditionally, Odisha has done well to produce international women footballers.
In the build-up to the World Cup, the state will also work with the Tournament LOC to start a Women’s football league in the State, with the format potentially expanding over the next 5 years to cover all youth football age categories.
The State also plans to undertake other steps at the community level to encourage young girls to take up the sport, details of which will soon be furnished.
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