The 12th South Asian Games touted as the biggest multi-sporting event in the SAARC region is all set to begin in Guwahati on February 5. It will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of a host of dignitaries from India and neighbouring countries.
PM Modi will declare the Games open during the inaugural ceremony at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium at Sarusajai Sports Complex in the presence of the athletes from eight participating countries, ministers and diplomats from the SAARC region.
“The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been kind enough and he has confirmed that he will inaugurate the Games at the opening ceremony on February 5,” Sports Secretary Rajiv Yadav told reporters at a media briefing on the Games in Guwahati.
Yadav also said Pakistan has dropped the idea of coming with their 450-strong contingent (including the officials) in one go in a chartered flight from Islamabad and they will now come in batches, entering India in New Delhi.
Pakistanis are allowed to enter India by air only in New Delhi and Mumbai unless special permission is granted to do otherwise. “Pakistan had earlier told us they will come by chartered flights directly to Guwahati with all their contingent coming in one go and we have even agreed to that. But now they have changed their plans,” he said.
“If all of them are coming in one go, Pakistan Olympic Association will have to give USD 30 per day to all their athletes. The events of many of them will end early or start in the later part of the Games.
“So, they are now coming in batches and they will arrive in India just like any other country’s athletes. Pakistani contingent will land in New Delhi from their country and then they will take Indian flights to Guwahati,” he added.
Yadav said all the participating athletes and officials will be given Non Passport Visa (NPV) and they will not need visas to reach India.
India is hosting the regional multi-sporting event for the third time and this edition will see more than 2000 athletes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives, besides hosts India vying for top honours.
Meghalaya’s capital Shillong is the co-host city of the February 5-16 Games which will feature 23 disciplines. Guwahati will host 16 disciplines and men’s football while Shillong will host six disciplines and women’s football.