Khelo India Youth Games in Pune from January 9

9000 sports persons will be competing in the Khelo India Youth Games, with the Games set to be held in Pune.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (center) with prominent athletes and officials at the launch of the Khelo India Youth Games in Delhi.   -  Special Arrangement

The Khelo India Youth Games, to be hosted in Pune from January 9 to 20, promises to be "bigger and better’’ said Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Union Sports Minister, who unveiled the jersey and provided the high points in front of some of the country's young sporting icons here in New Delhi on Sunday.

On the outset, Rathore announced that with 9000 sports persons competing — and covering college students, taking the age group from under-17 to under-21, this would be a big jump from the 3750 athletes who competed in the Khelo India School Games earlier this year.

"It is just the tip of the ice berg. It is time to believe in ourselves. We can do everything’’, said the sports minister.

On the part of the official broadcaster, Star Sports, its Managing Director Sanjay Gupta announced that there would be more hours of "live" coverage, with three regional languages — Tamil, Telugu and Kannada — to broadcast the Games along with the English and Hindi broadcast.

A television campaign was also launched to drive home the point that parents and teachers need to sustain sports in youngsters to ensure better education for them.

The Sports Minister visualised that this was the early stages of Indian sports trying to follow the big idea of American collegiate sports flourishing on television, and said that by 2028 India would be able to challenge China.

"It has just been one year, and we have already seen the 15-16 year old athletes performing at the international level. We will have more players from villages and small places. We are already supporting 1500 athletes through the Khelo India Games. We have 80 academies supporting the athletes, and 40 of them are private. We will partner with private organisations to improve sports’’, he said.

— Games to be held in Pune —

Rathore also said that it was an encouraging sign that three States bid for hosting the Youth Games — with Maharashtra winning the rights to host it in Pune.

"We had decided to host the second edition of Khelo India Games at the Shiv Chatrapati Sports Complex in Pune. Maharashtra ‘khel ki bhumi hai’, and we are trying to enhance the sports culture further with this event. We have upgraded the infrastructure so that our youth can train better in future’’, said Vinod Tawde, the Minister of School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare, of the Maharashtra government.

The Maharashtra minister also highlighted the 10% marks for sports in final exams for sports students, and 5% reservation of jobs in the State for sports persons as the key initiatives to drive sports in the State.

Looking back at the year with satisfaction, Rathore said that it did prove to be the "year of sports" for India as the athletes won record number of medals in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Para Asian Games and the Youth Olympics.

While Sanjay Gupta observed that education was incomplete without sports, Rathore remarked that education was not restricted to class rooms and some of the best life lessons were learnt on the sports fields.

On the occasion, young athletes like Esha Singh, Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Lakshay Sheoran, Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Tababi Devi, Lakshya Sen and Srihari Nataraj — along Sushil Kumar, the former World Champion and Olympic medallist — sported the Youth Games attire.