Text of PM’s address at the Inaugural Ceremony of 12th South Asian Games at Guwahati

Indian players taking part in the ceremonial march pass on the occasion of the 12th South Asian Games-2016, at Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium, in Guwahati, Assam on February 05, 2016.

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I feel privileged and honoured to be among sportspersons from our neighbourhood and brothers and sisters from SAARC countries. I welcome all of you to India, a country known for its culture of अतिथि देवो भव: and to this beautiful city of Guwahati known for its hospitality and love for sports.

What moves me today, is your electrifying presence, full of excitement and enthusiasm for this important international sports event on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra.

Guwahati has come a long way since the days of Pragjyotishpur in Ancient India. It is now a modern and vibrant city and a hub of all economic activities in the North-Eastern Region of India.

Young people in the North-East and especially here in Assam do not miss any opportunity to witness a good football match. This fame has spread so far and wide that the FIFA World Cup Under-17 which will be hosted first time in India in 2017 has chosen Guwahati as a prime venue for the event.

This sports meet, for me signifies a perfect blend of 3 Ts – Talent, Teamwork and Togetherness. Among us is the best and most youthful talent from across South Asia. You are proud members of your team – it can be your team of the sport you play and a larger team of the nation you are representing. And, at the same time this meet also celebrates togetherness of all South Asian nations. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – no matter which country we are from, we all call South Asia our home.

Sports has to be an essential part of an individual’s life. A good game is both healthy and refreshing. All round development of the personality is incomplete without sports. Most importantly, sports brings with it the most vital sportsman spirit. Without sports, there cannot be any sportsman spirit. This sportsman spirit will not only help you on the field but also in other aspects of your life. You will cherish whatever you learn on the sports field for your entire life. I always say – Jo Khele, woh Khile. The person who plays, shines.

The mascot of these games ‘TIKHOR‘represents a baby rhino who is sharp and intelligent. It captures the spirit of sports persons and young sport lovers.

The theme song of the games is “Ei prithivi ekhan krirangan, krira hol shantir prangan” sung by legendary late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.

A singer whose captivating voice left people spellbound; his song beautifully captures the spirit of South Asian Games, the spirit of peace, friendship and prosperity.

I have been told by Shri Sarbananda Sonowalji that the Organizing Committee for the Games has brought waters from each of the eight SAARC countries and these waters will be merged to signify shared aspirations and cooperative spirit amongst the SAARC nations.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s song “We are in the same boat brother” which you are going to hear soon is all about SAARC nations. We should join hands together as a family. Let us kindle this spirit of friendship through sports in South Asian Games.

My vision for South Asia is the same as my vision for India – Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. All South Asian countries are partners in our journey towards development.

We the people living in SAARC countries comprise 21 per cent of the world’s population and contribute about 9 per cent to its economy.

As we gather today to commence the 12th South Asian Games, for 23 sporting events covering both men and women, we bring sports-persons from all SAARC countries to India’s North-East and to this great city in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding.

I am sure that as the Games proceed, this feeling of friendship trust and understanding will convert itself not only into sporting opportunities but also into business and tourism opportunities as well.

Let these Games become a spring board for bringing peace and prosperity in the region through business, interaction and sporting activities. Let this be an opportunity for SAARC people to realize their potential.

Sportsmanship is a philosophy of life harmonizing in a balanced whole the qualities of endurance, will and mind. The challenge for performance, the joy of effort, the cheer of success, the spirit of friendship and fairplay in a sports arena speak volumes about how culture, education, ethics, dignity and society get intertwined with each other during such sports events.

On the sports field, we can forget what separates us, and we can truly connect with each other in the spirit of sportsmanship and adventure.

We can celebrate our diversity, and at the same time, be united under common rules for our sports, and the shared values of honesty and fair play.

Let us play for peace: let us play for prosperity. Let us play with full vigour and enthusiasm so that we remember these Games even after they are over.

The friendships you would form over these 12 days, and the memories you take back will last you a lifetime.

I am confident that you will cherish these bonds, and become Ambassadors for peace and friendship between our nations.

While people play for medals and provide tough competition to each other, I urge the sports-persons and visitors here to take time from their busy schedules to visit the places of tourism attraction and wonderful wildlife sanctuaries nearby.

Once again I welcome our friends from SAARC countries. Let the spirit of ‘Gurukul’ prevail for two weeks in Guwahati as sportspersons share with each other their best and take back great feeling of warmth and remarkable experience.

Let the competition be in true sports man spirit. May the best win.

I declare the 12th South Asian Games open.

Thank you.