Mangaluru, Apr 30: The much-awaited 19th All-India Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championship began on a colourful note at Mangala Stadium here on Thursday April 30 with a vibrant display of local tradition and culture, brought together in a beautiful procession.

The procession, organized by Alva’s College, Moodbidri, comprised dolls, tiger dance, chende, Dollu Kunita, a glimpses of folk arts like Yakshagana, Manipuri dance and much more. The Karnataka contigent was led by athlete Sahana Kumari.

The star attraction of the inaugural ceremony was Bollywood actor Sunil Shetty.

Minister for tourism R V Deshpande, in the absence of chief minister Siddaramaiah who could not attend due to meetings with the Prime Minister, inaugurated the event by releasing balloons into the air. Adil J Sumariwalla, president of Athletic Federation of India hoisted the Federation flag.

Addressing the gathering, Sunil Shetty, “I am the son of the soil and I am happy that the 19th Federation Cup has come to Mangaluru. I appeal to all citizens to come and cheer the athletes during the next four days. This city will also be hosting a surfing festival next month, and it looks like good days have arrived for sports in Mangaluru.”

He also appealed to the athletes not to take performance-enhancing drugs. “Instead, practice hard and train your body in order to become a quality sportperson,” he advised.

R V Deshpande said, “I thank Adil Sumariwalla for giving an opportunity for Karnataka to host this event, and also Dr G Parameshwar for taking interest in bringing it to Karnataka and Mangaluru. This is event has made this stadium colourful.

“Tourism and sports go hand in hand. We are trying to boost tourism in the coastal region by organizing more sports events. The upcoming surfing festival in Mangaluru will boost tourism even more. The union government should ease CRZ rules to help improve tourism,” he added.

Stressing on the need to give more importance to sports, he said, “We are a country of 120 crore people, but we are not able to produce enough quality athletes like China and other countries. In order to produce quality athletes we need to improve infrastructure and provide the best coaches to them. Karnataka is taking the right step in this direction. We will put in more efforts = to produce quality sportspersons in the coming days.”

Adil Sumariwalla in his address said, “I am honoured to be here today. This event will give a chance for all of us to have a breathtaking sporting experience. We hope new talents emerge from this event. Coaches and athletes need to put in a lot of efforts as this is a very important event in view of the upcoming Asian and international events. AFI is committed to provide all quality facilities and hold competitions to boost sports in India. The union government is also supporting sports. It has raised the slab of sports training budget from Rs 11 crore to Rs 19.5 crore, so that sportspersons can avail new coaches or go abroad for training. AFI is also keen to streghthen junior championships.”

He also advised participating athletes to refrain from taking drugs. “Athletes should refrain from taking drugs to enhance performance. It will not only spoil their health but also the country’s reputation,” he said.

“I wish all the best to the event and congratulate medal winners of the past and wish that we win medals in future at international levels,” he added.

KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar, who is also the president of Karnataka Athletics Association, asked everyone to stand and observe a minute’s silence to pray for those affected by the devastating earthquake in Nepal. In his address, he said, “I thank Adil Sumariwalla for letting Karnataka host this event. The CM could not be present but he has sent a senior minister (Deshpande) to grace the event. Dakshina Kannada has produced many athletes for India, and this event will surely benefit athletes of this district as they can compete with national athletes.

“This is a very important event as athletes who excel will qualify for the upcoming Asian Athletics Championships to be held in June at Wuhan, China and for the Rio Olympics,” he added.

“For the first time, we have institutued Karnataka Athletics Awards (KAA) to honour athletes from Karnataka who succeed in national and international arenas. We need to build more infrastructure to boost sports in Karnataka and more funds need to be allotted for this purpose. Only then will sportspersons get motivated,” Parameshwar said.

Minister for youth services and sports Abhaychandra Jain said, “The sports department has spent Rs 11 crore on encouraging sportspersons and associations connected with sports. The state government is committed to provide more facilities. We need to take steps to improve sports infrastructure in the coastal region.”

He also lauded the students of Alva’s College for their brilliant procession and cultural events and thanked the College for training 700 students for this event.

Earlier, deputy commissioner A B Ibrahim welcomed the gathering and said, “The coastal region is known for its cuisine, banks, educational institutions and medical advancements. Eminent people have been born in this place. It is really a proud moment for us to host this Federation Cup.”

District incharge minister Ramanath Rai, health minister U T Khadar, urban development mnister Vinay Kumar Sorake, MLA J R Lobo, MLA Mohiuddin Bava, MLC Ivan D’Souza, mayor Jacintha Alfred, Manjunath Bhandary, S Venkatesh, director, youth empowerment and sports department, Bengaluru, and others were present.

Sahana Kumari led the oath-taking ceremony. Senior journalist Manohar Prasad compered the inaugural ceremony.

The ceremony culminated with brilliant performances by students of Alva’s College, showcasing the cultural diversity of India through dance, skit and music.

Courtesy: Daijiword