Prof. Achyuta Samanta KIIT University, an Institution of Eminence, has the proud privilege to host the 1st Khelo India University Games (KIUG) 2020 from 22nd February to 1st March 2020. It is another milestone for KIIT to host the most prestigious University level sports meet under the Government of India’s flagship “Khelo India” Programme, a dream project of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India.KIUG, a multi-disciplinary annual sporting extravaganza under the aegis of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Association of Indian Universities (AIU) aims to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in our country and establish India as a great sporting nation. Very aptly, it is being hosted by KIIT in Bhubaneswar, Odisha that has emerged as the sporting capital of the country under the leadership of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik. Rewind to 2 months back, the authorities of Khelo India University Games approached us requesting for the tournament be held at KIIT University. I was overwhelmed with a sense of excitement as well as nervousness. Excited at the prospect of us hosting the maiden edition of the tournament and nervous because there were only a couple of months to go and we would need to constantly run against time to make it a perfect event. It was a great honour for me to learn about the trust that the officials placed on us. A tournament of such scale – 4000 players from about 200 participating universities, about 1000 match officials and managers, 17 sporting events – all at our backyard, so to say. They were confident that there’s only one university in the entire nation that had the capacity as well as the spirit to host such an event. They had no second thoughts. A lot of this confidence stemmed from Bhubaneswar successfully hosting back-to-back international tournaments, with the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 being the biggest highlight. We reached an agreement and February was chosen as the month for the games to be held. Next up was to get the required permissions. Since it was going to be hosted in Odisha, a go-ahead from the state government was needed. Talks were held and the dates were finalized. The Odisha government under the aegis of the Sports Authority of India and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports was set to host the first-ever Khelo India University Games at KIIT! It all happened very quickly because of the prompt decisions by State Government and execution by a team of sincere officers under the leadership of Chief Minister of Odisha who has been a patron par excellence. We were no strangers to sports. KIIT & KISS have accorded high importance to sports since their inception besides top notch academics. The two institutions have together produced more than 5000sports talents in over 30 disciplines, who have gone on to participate at national and international levels. The students of KISS have participated in Olympics, South Asian Federation Games, Asian Games and many more. In fact, KISS has played an important role in popularizing Rugby in India. It has become the most sought after place for scouts to identify future rugby stars. Dutee Chand, Olympian and the fastest woman of India, who has won gold in the World University Games 2019 and two silvers in Asian Games 2019 is a student of KIIT. Juana Murmu, who is fondly referred to as the Hurdles Queen and Purnima Hembram who has won Bronze in Heptathlon at 2015 and 2017 Asian Championships are students of KISS. The most recent achievement being Sumitra Nayak’s penalty scored in the dying minutes of the game to clinch the bronze medal for India, in a team consisting of five players from KISS, at the Asia Women’s Div-1 Rugby 15-s Championship. In fact, numerous policymakers have predicted the presence of KISS students in the upcoming 2024 Olympics. KIIT has also been hosting top-level sporting tournaments for many years. However, playing hosts to India’s flagship sporting event at the youth level was always going to be a challenge. It was a different ball game altogether. We had to ensure every minute detail was taken care of. Arguably, the most challenging bit was to accommodate around 5000 people in twin capacity, air-conditioned rooms in the middle of the academic year when we already had 30,000 students residing on-campus. Our priority had to be expediting the construction of several hostel blocks and sporting arenas that were in-progress and scheduled to be completed by the end of the calendar year. The pace had to be doubled and a collective effort was required. The entire staff of KIIT and KISS got involved with the utmost dedication. I was involved in the monitoring of entire turn of events. We paid attention to detail- from new bed linen to fruits and dry fruits on the bed side too! The preparations were completed in the nick of time. Officials from Khelo India had been monitoring the progress and inspecting all the locations. It is fair to say that they seemed content with all the arrangements, so much so that all 17 events of KIUG can be conducted at the KIIT campus itself. Only a few days were left for the start of the competition and players started to arrive. The madness had officially begun. A gripping sense of anticipation surrounded the entire university. All that was left was for the competition to be declared open. The first flick of the racket against the backdrop of the beautiful KIIT campus – I was overjoyed with a sense of satisfaction. It was finally time for kick-off. And I was reminded of my childhood. Memories of my childhood make me happy and sad at the same time. Growing up, I barely got two meals a day let alone having the privilege to go out and play. Neither had I played sports or had situations conducive to even think about playing. Circumstances were difficult and I have worked hard to fight my way out of poverty. By god’s grace, today I am lucky enough to be contributing towards the development of so many young sports stars and the sporting infrastructure we have created, is being of service to the State and the entire country. My happiness knows no bounds and I often catch myself smiling.
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