| Naidu greets Gogoi as Kalmadi waits with the flag. Picture by B.K. Ramesh
Hyderabad, Dec. 22: The 10-day 32nd National Games came to a close with Assam, the host for the next Games in 2005, promising to maintain the high standards set by Andhra Pradesh.
Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi handed over the IOA flag to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi in the presence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Andhra chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu with a yellow banner proclaiming Welcome to Assam, 2005, in the background.
“Andhra Pradesh has given sports a new direction by helping its sportsmen with better equipment and facilities to win more medals. Our endeavour, too, will be to provide the same level of infrastructure and support to the athletes of our state,” Gogoi said to thunderous applause in the jam-packed stadium.
Hoping that the Centre would be liberal in extending assistance, Gogoi said: “Finance is not the issue because after all, Manipur has also staged the Games and its financial health is worse than Assam’s. When the time comes, we will find out ways and means to acquire the required resources and one way out could be to approach public sector units like the IOC, ONGC and OIL. This apart, we will also ask for funds from the NEC and the Centre,” he told The Telegraph.
Gogoi was accompanied by Assam sports minister Robin Bordoloi and Assam Olympic Association officials when he received the IOA flag. Officials from the state have been camping here, visiting stadia and inspecting the facilities for the Games held here and in Vishakhapatnam. They have also sought assistance from Andhra Pradesh.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Games at the G.M.C. Balayogi Stadium, the Prime Minister said in the last few years, India has emerged stronger in the field of sports and is ready to host major international events like the Afro-Asian Games.
Vajpayee said the Centre would bid for all international sports events if Andhra Pradesh was keen to host it. “Sports is the only arena which brings out camaraderie and togetherness in all human beings,” Vajpayee said.
Richa Mishra of Delhi, who represented Andhra and bagged seven gold medals, and Rehan Poocha, a swimmer from Karnataka, were adjudged the best athletes among women and men. Andhra with 246 medals, including 93 gold, 86 silver and 63 bronze, was declared the best state.
The Games torch, burning for the last 10 days with the help of nearly 600 LPG cylinders, was extinguished with the touch of a button by Naidu.
Later, the IOA flag was brought down to the sound of bugles played by the state police band. Six NCC cadets and athletes from Andhra marched with the flag and handed it over to Naidu, who in turn handed it back to Kalmadi.