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Khelo India: Two sports academies announced for Jammu and Kashmir

Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju

Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has announced a modern winter sports academy for the Kashmir valley while revealing the Centre’s intention to grant accreditation of a sports academy to Jammu’s Mata Vaishno Devi sports complex.

Rijiju, along with the union Sports Secretary, is scheduled to inaugurate the winter sports academy on Saturday, 27 February, at a building acquired from the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation at Gulmarg where Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 2nd edition of the Khelo India winter games through videoconferencing on Friday.

On this occasion Kiren Rijiju announced various plans to further develop the sports ecosystem in J&K. “We had announced that we will create a state-of-the-art winter sports academy here. Now, we are happy to inform you that all the procedures are in place to get the world standard institute opened here soon. Funds have already been allocated”, Rijiju said. He said that the Union Ministry of Sports would be fully funding 100 ‘Khelo India’ programmes in J&K. Out of them, 40—twenty each in Kashmir and Jammu—had been already sanctioned and the funds had been released. Sixty more would be sanctioned and fully funded in the next financial year.

“Retired players, coaches can run these centres and give back to sports, while earning a dignified source of livelihood. We have also opened 2 KISCEs here focusing on the disciplines of Judo, Fencing and Rowing. In Srinagar too, we have decided on opening a water sports facility which may be completed by April or May. Also, we have decided to give a Khelo India academy accreditation to the Mata Vaishnodevi sports complex,” Rijiju added.

Amid rains, minor snowfall and severe cold, Prime Minister Modi through a video conference addressed a gathering of over 600 winter games players and other sports enthusiasts who later enjoyed skiing on the alpine slopes at Kongdori, the middle station of the Gulmarg Gondola ropeway. Officials said that some top national and international players would enjoy an adventurism at Afarwat, the highest point of the Gulmarg Gondola facing areas under Pakistan’s occupation and the Poonch district of Jammu.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, along with two advisors and Rijiju, stayed for a night at Gulmarg. Deciding against flying by a helicopter, Sinha travelled to and fro by road. 

The annual sports event, which made its debut in March 2020 at Gulmarg and in Ladakh, is organized by the J&K Sports Council and the Winter Games Association of J&K under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. J&K’s players bagged the maximum number of the gold medals—20—in the maiden edition in March 2020. It was appreciated among others by the Prime Minister. This year the 5-day festival will conclude at Gulmarg on 2 March.

The second edition of the Games will see a participation of over 1200 people, including 600 athletes across 27 States and Union Territories. The participation list of athletes also includes the Indian Army and the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports. The various sports disciplines include Sprint, Speed Skating, Ice Hockey, Figure Skating, Ice Stock, Giant Slalom, Snowboarding, Vertical Race, Cross Country, Snowshoe, Long distance running, Ski Mountaineering, Skiing and Nordic Ski.

In his address, Prime Minister Modi revealed that institutes of higher education and a Sports University were being established for sports by his government. He emphasized the need to take sports sciences and sports management to the school level as that will improve the career prospects of the youth and will enhance India's presence in the sports economy.

Lieutenant Governor Sinha said, “We want to give the message of unity, love, empowerment and peace through the games in the beautiful valley of Gulmarg. We are ranked 14 in winter sports destination in the world but with the support of our PM, Shri Rijiju, the Central government, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, the UT sports department and the J&K Sports Council and especially, the energy of the youth, J&K will get in the top 5.”