The 2nd North East Olympic Games 2022 got underway formally today with a gigantic opening ceremony at the SAI Training Centre on the NEHU campus here.
Overall, those in attendance seemed appreciative of the scale of the event, the highlight of which was a drone show that was expertly done with lights that changed their arrangement to spell out ‘Khublei’ and ‘Mitela’ as well as show representations of traditional Khasi and Garo dress and other cultural aspects.
Welcoming those present was an arch gate that was a representation of Meghalaya’s world famous living root bridges. The Olympic torch was also tastefully crafted in the traditional style using local materials. Music was a huge part of the ceremony, with several acts, including Summersalt, Tarari Choir, Pynter Orchestra and Lamphang Syiemlieh.
There were some negatives, however. Members of the public were a little taken aback by the high price of food and beverages and more than one person approached this reporter looking for a public lavatory. Lighting was another issue, with the dignitaries cloaked in darkness even when on the dais. Whether it was a good idea to have the ceremony during a cold winter’s evening is another question.
A large number of dignitaries from around the North East were present on the occasion, including cabinet ministers, legislators, senior officials, representatives of the Meghalaya State Olympic Association (MSOA) and North East Olympic Association (NEOA), and star athlete, the ‘Dhing Express’ Hima Das. The MC was noted television presenter and actor Mandira Bedi.
The Olympic torch was handed over to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma by star Meghalaya runner Marso Kyndait. The CM placed it on the pedestal where it will remain for the rest of the Games.
In his speech, Shri Sangma said, “Meghalaya is celebrating 50 years of statehood and to mark this we have to celebrate the youth. We were firm to host the North East Olympic Games in Shillong in this very special year. We have always believed that the youth are the greatest strength of the nation. We have to help them channel their energy in positive ways and hence we wanted the North East Olympic Games. Sports is not only about results but the personality that develops, like how to learn from a loss, improving and playing fair.“
Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh warmly welcomed all the 3000 athletes and other visitors. “Volunteers and stakeholders have worked very hard in getting everything ready. Sports are an integral part of the journey of a human being and also helps the people stay fit and active,” he added.
MSOA Working President John F Kharshiing said, “We have used this opportunity to create new infrastructure and facilities for the smooth and comfortable experience for the athletes. We are grateful to the state government for bringing a paradigm shift in its approach to sports development.“
NEOA President Th Radheshyam, said that the whole purpose of the NEOG, which was launched in 2018, is to give a foundation for the youths. “We want to build on the aspirations for our children and help them accomplish their full potential. Our youths should have the best environment to build themselves up,” he said. “Meghalaya has a remarkable way of doing things. The love and affection shown to everyone has been amazing,” he added.
Earlier, the welcome address was delivered by Chief Secretary, Donald P Wahlang, who said that the athletes are carrying the hopes and dreams of their states.
The athletes performed the march past, oath taking (led by Meghalaya karateka Wandahunshisha Mawblei) and witnessed the lighting of the flame, all of which are traditions of such sporting events.
Football had begun on November 7 but today saw the start of the Games officially, with table tennis, basketball and golf all beginning.