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Afro-Asian Games: Official countdown begins

By Our Sports Reporter

HYDERABAD SEPT. 24. With the official mascot of the inaugural edition of the Afro-Asian Games to be held here from October 24 to November 1, Sheroo greeting the Governor, Surjit Singh Barnala, the official countdown for the Games was formally launched by the Government today.

Mr. Barnala, addressing a gathering at the Durbar Hall in Raj Bhavan this afternoon, said it was a great pleasure to have the Games organised in Hyderabad.

"The State has demonstrated to the world its capability to organise mega sporting events, including the 32nd National Games last December. I hope the organisers will do their best to host the Afro-Asian Games also in a grand manner.

"Everyday is important now. With only 30 days to go for the big moment in Indian sporting history, every moment is going to be precious," he told the officials involved in the conduct of the Games.

"Let us not forget that the entire world will be watching our performance during the Games - both on the organisational front and on the field. So, it is time to enhance the nation's prestige in the world of sports," Mr. Barnala said.

"I hope this Games will be a great show," the chief patron of the Games concluded.

Earlier, Ratan P. Watal, secretary-general of the organising committee of the Games, in his welcome address reminded that about 3,000 athletes from 98 countries would vie for honours in the mega sporting event featuring eight disciplines.

"A grand opening ceremony with 3,000 school children and folk artistes taking part in it should provide the perfect start to the Games," he said.

"These Games are expected to foster a sense of solidarity between the Continents. The Games will also witness a unique partnership amongst the State Government, the Centre, the Indian Olympic Association and the AP Olympic Association," he said. "A wide range of Government departments are also chipping in with their mite to make the Games a success," Watal said.

"The fact that 17 sub-committees, chaired by State Ministers, are closely monitoring every aspect of the Games, shows the intense desire of the Government to ensure the smooth conduct of the Games. The morale and enthusiasm are on a high," he stated. Watal concluded with the remark that after the inaugural edition of the Asian Games in Delhi in 1952, they have become a regular event on the Continent's sports calendar and hoped that these Afro-Asian Games would also usher in a new era in sporting history.

L.V. Subrahmanyam, vice-chairman and managing director of SAAP, proposed the vote of thanks.

Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi reports

The 30-day countdown for the inaugural Afro-Asian Games kicked off here with a sparkling laser show, a delightful dance performance by cute kids attired as sportspersons of the eight disciplines and vibrant music, that had the mascot Sheroo tapping its feet, on Wednesday.

The Union Sports Minister, Vikram Verma, the IOA President, Suresh Kalmadi, and everyone who addressed the gathering, made it a point to thank the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, for ensuring that the inaugural Afro-Asian Games were conducted, after all.

Mr. Kalmadi said it was important to make a success of the inter-continental exercise, as it would pave the way for a successful Indian bid for hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In fact, the delegates of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) from 71 countries are expected to be present for the closing ceremony on November 1. Thereafter, they are scheduled to visit the venues in Delhi, on their way to Jamaica for the CGF General Assembly on November 13.

Meanwhile, on October 25, in a joint general assembly of the national Olympic committees of Asia and Africa, to be chaired by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah Al-Fahad, the venue and modalities of the second edition of the Afro-Asian Games would be decided.

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