Guwahati, Feb.18: Words like “beautiful”, “best” and “peerless” flowed from the Prime Minister’s lips as the curtain came down on the 33rd National Games today, leaving the participants and fans dewy-eyed and the government basking in the warmth of praise for a job done well.
Manmohan Singh than-ked the “patriotic people of Assam” for ensuring that the Games was a smooth affair and Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi admitted that the 33rd edition was by far the best. Nothing could have been better for a state that many of the Games participants were wary of visiting for fear of violence by militants.
Thousands started trickling in through the main entrance as well as the rear exit gate since around noon to watch the colourful end of the 10-day sports extravaganza.
It was almost a rerun of Saturday night fever when Assam thrashed Tamil Nadu in the football final. It was a riot of colours today, too, at the stadium.
Once the Games was declared closed by Singh, artistes from the state film industry and Bollywood took centrestage. There were performances by Urmila Matondkar, pop group Aryans and singer Debojit Saha.
The crowd went into raptures when evergreen Usha Uthup brought down the curtains in her own inimitable style by crooning “Assam ka saath na chodenge”.
There was a tinge of sadness though. The Games over, it will back to the grind for the city’s sportslovers.
“We will miss the Games, the beautiful ambience. Since nothing much happens in these parts it was a memorable event. For the first time I came to know what a big sporting events are all about,” said Abhay Bhuyan, leaving for the gates with moist eyes.
Singh highlighted the importance of working as a team and urged the corporate sector to look beyond cricket.
He also exhorted the sporting fraternity to get ready for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in 2010.
Praising chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s government for setting up an impressive infrastructure, Singh reminded Dispur that the challenge of effectively and efficiently utilising and maintaining the infrastructure “begins now”.
Kalmadi couldn’t stop praising Dispur and the people. “I cannot forget you Guwahati. I cannot forget you Assam,” he said with a voice choked with emotion, virtually acknowledging that the city had given the National Games a new lease of life.
The IOA flag was handed over to Jharkhand chief minister and chairman, organising committee, Madhu Koda, and R.K. Anand, president, Jharkhand Olympic Association by Singh as the next edition will be held in Ranchi. The Olympic Flame was extinguished by Kalmadi.
While Services finished the meet as the best team, Assam too did well by bagging the maximum number of medals. Manipur got the maximum number of gold. Karnataka swimmer Rehan Poncha was named the best man sportsperson of the meet, his second in succession and Richa Mishra of Delhi the best woman sportsperson of the meet.