New Delhi: India will host the Para Open Games, which will see some top international differently-abled athletes in action here, from February 20 to 26 next year.
Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot announced that his ministry has allocated Rs 20 crore for the multi-sporting event. "Delhi will host Para Games from February 20-26 and it will be held with help of Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India and also with other stakeholders," Gehlot said here last night at the send-off function for Indian para athletes for the Para Asian Games to be held in Incheon from October 18 to 24.
Ninety Indian athletes, including the likes of 2012 Paralympic silver medallist H N Girisha and 2004 Athens Paralympics and 2013 IPC World Championships gold medallist Devendra Jhajharia, are taking part in the Para Asian Games.
Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was also present at the send-off function. "We expect our para athletes to do well in Incheon and we will also organise a felicitation function after your return with medals just like the ministry did in case of able-bodied athletes," Sonowal said.
Paralympic Committee of India President Rajesh Tomar told PTI that the Delhi event will see participation from South Asian countries and from other continents as well.
"The event will be named inaugural Para Open Games. Since it will be an 'Open' event, it will see participation from South Asian countries, Europe and America. I have recently made a presentation to the International Paralympic Committee regarding this event and the IPC has given me positive feedback," Tomar said.
He said the international event will also allow India to have more para-athletes 'classified' to be eligible to take part in international events. "In para sports you need competition among athletes of similar disability so as not to gain advantage. So you need classification. In para athletics only, you can have more than 150 events. This classification is done by classifiers (doctors) from IPC and our doctors cannot do that," he said.
"In India, we only have some 250 classified para-athletes who have done this by taking part in international events which is very costly and mostly they have taken part at their own cost."
"IPC will send classifiers during the Para Open Games Open Games and our para athletes will be automatically classified. This will benefit our athletes. Also, the IPC will decide the international athletes who are taking part in this event. I have left it to the IPC," Tomar added.
Sports Authority of India DG Jiji Thomson announced that a Sports Training Centre exclusively for para athletes will be established in Chandigarh. "A Sports Training Centre exclusively for differently abled athletes will be established soon in Chandigarh and this will be a first of its kind in the country. I hope the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will also help us in this project," he said.
Thomson said it was due to Sonowal that a bigger contingent was going to Incheon. "We had recommended a smaller contingent but the minister on his own said India should send a more athletes in the Para Asian Games," he said.
India's 1983 cricket World Cup captain Kapil Dev, who is also brand ambassador of PCI, said his most memorable career moment was when he first represented the country and asked the para-athletes to enjoy and give their best in Incheon.
"Many people asked about my best moment in my career. I told them that it was not the winning of 1983 World Cup but it was when I first got the India cap (in 1978 against Pakistan)," he said.
"So just go and enjoy in Inchoen. Do your best for the country. Since you are representing the country you need to play according to the rules. A win by dishonest means will only tarnish the image of the country.
"Even while lacking something, you people have reached here by your courage and determination. So you people have something more than the abled-bodies persons. If able-bodied persons have your qualities then they would have achieved much more than they have," he said.