Leh, Feb 2: In a historic moment for the Union Territory of Ladakh, the inaugural Khelo India Winter Games 2024 commenced with a vibrant opening ceremony at the Nawang Dorjay Stobdan Stadium in Leh.
The event, marking Ladakh's debut in the Khelo India Winter Games, is set to showcase ice hockey and ice skating competitions involving participants from fifteen states and two public institutions. The five-day spectacle promises thrilling sporting action against the picturesque backdrop of Ladakh's snow-covered landscapes.
Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Brig (Dr) BD Mishra (Retd) was the chief guest on the occasion. The second part of the Winter Games will be held in Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir from February 21-25.
Despite the chilly weather, a motley turnout at the NDS Stadium witnessed traditional folk dances and were treated to some foot-tapping music by the popular local band, Dashugs. An exhibition ice hockey match between UT-Ladakh and Indo-Tibetan Border Police set the ball rolling. The match ended 0-0. A thrilling 500-metre short-track ice skating by a team of girls from across India was an additional treat. On this special day for Ladakh, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, sent a special message to the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 organisers. In his inspirational address, PM Modi said how Khelo India was bringing India closer to each other. “We just witnessed the conclusion of the highly successful Khelo India Youth Games in Tamil Nadu. From the southern to the northern tip, the journey and spirit of Khelo India continues unabated. The Khelo India Winter Games epitomizes this spirit further, aiming to nurture champions and positions the regions of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, as premier winter sports destinations, globally." The Union Territory of Ladakh will now have a Khelo India Centre of Excellence. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Sports Authority of India and the sports department, Union Territory of Ladakh on Friday. It was the perfect gift for the UT to host a major national event for the first time.
The Khelo India Centre of Excellence in Ladakh will provide a big boost to sportspersons in this challenging region. The centre will serve three sports – athletics, archery and boxing. The Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports’ decision to tap talent in Ladakh was well received.
LG Ladakh Brigadier Dr BD Mishra said, “This tie-up will help sportspersons from the region to get the right facilities and improve their standards. We always want our athletes to learn from the best experts and reach international levels. This is certainly a significant milestone in the history of Ladakh sports.” The first medals of the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 were also decided on Day 1. Eklavya Jagal of Uttar Pradesh won the gold in the under-17 short track (300m) skating for boys. He clocked 31.81 seconds. Aarav Patwardhan (32.03) and Advay Kothari (32.60) finished in that order. Both represented Maharashtra.
In the boy's 17-plus short track skating, Karnataka’s Akash Aradhya (32.81) won the gold medal. Maharashtra’s Sujoy Tapkir (33.33) and Sumit Tapkir (34.33 sec) ended second and third. Eight teams in men’s ice hockey and four in women’s ice hockey have also started their campaigns. While the men have been divided into two groups, the women will play a round-robin league. ITBP are the top seeds in both men's and women’s sections.