The 33rd National Games

It was the year 2007, when I was in standard 12th. Guwahati was preparing itself for the 33rd National Games. It was a festive season and people were very eagerly waiting to host the greatest event ever held there.

Brief History of the National Games: – It was the year 1924, in erstwhile Punjab, The Indian Olympic Games got its first existence. G D Sondhi, the first Secretary and Lt. Col HLO Garret, Vice Principle of Govt College, Lahore was the President — were the pioneering members to organize this event. Later, it came to be known as the National Games and since then it is held every two years with its beginning in Bombay in 1940.

33rd National Games:-  Due to lack of finance, insurgency related problems, terrorism and flash floods, the games were delayed twice and finally on December 21, 2006, Mr. Tarun Gogoi, personally assured about the security of all the athletes and dignitaries by giving a presentation in New Delhi. It also included the infrastructure and the opening and closing ceremonies. The IOA President, Mr. Suresh Kalmandi, was impressed by it and he commented that the infrastructure was world class and it could be compared with international standards.

A games village was made in Sarusajai, in the outskirts of the city and all the other existing stadiums were rejuvenated. The Indira Gandhi Stadium, Sarusajai, The Dr. Zakir Hussain Aquatic Complex, The Karnabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi AC Indoor Hall were among the newly prepared.

The games mascot was “Rangmon”— the baby rhino clad with a dhoti and gamocha, the traditional Assamese dress.

Disturbances by the militant group:- The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) one of the major terrorist groups in Assam boycotted the Games and created an atmosphere of tension and insecurity when Guwahati met with a series of blasts prior to the games. Four days before the commencement of the games, the ULFA withdrew its boycott call. Some media channels said they wanted political importance and publicity, while others say that they got a handsome amount from the government in order to change their minds.

But on Feb 9, 2007, at about 11.20 am, a blast occurred at the Kamakhya Railway Station at the outskirts of the city. It was barely a few hours before the inauguration of the 33rd National Games. And a large number of athletes and other sports persons were expected on that day at the same station. However no casualties were reported only some damage to the buildings were done. ULFA was the main suspect behind this as claimed by an unknown caller.

Despite of all these, the ten days multi-disciplinary sports extravaganza was inaugurated by the Head of India’s ruling Congress party, Ms. Sonia Gandhi. And in her speech she said “Sports unite people, the message of sports is friendship.” Former Assam sportsperson Bhogeshwar Barua lit the torch.

Another incident occurred on Feb 11 which shook the festive mood was when a bus with 10 athletes and 3 policemen overturned on its way to the Games Village in Sarusajai. One of the players was badly injured.

Other than that, the games went on for ten days with full vigor and enthusiasm. And finally the closing ceremony was again a colourful event and the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh was the chief guest.

Result: – Services topped the medal list with 59 golds followed by Manipur, 51 and Assam, 38. The economy of Assam made a huge leap and it contributed to an overall development to the state of Assam.

Nystha Baishya

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