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Special Content

volume-45,9 -15 February, 2019


Khelo India  Turning India into a Sporting Nation

Vidhanshu Kumar

There is no less than a sporting revolution sweeping the country: While most of the Indian sports fans were quite rightly celebrating Indian cricket team's resounding wins in Australia and New Zealand in the month of January, another event in sports was held in Pune which could have far reaching effects for Indian sports.The Khelo India Youth Games 2019 were declared open on the 9th of January for the 12-day long extravaganza.

The opening ceremony was held in the presence of a number of seasoned athletes like two-time Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar. The game was declared open as Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis received the virtual torch. The sports minister Rathore led the athletes in taking the pledge as the ceremonial opening of the games.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent motivational message on the inauguration in which he stressed on the theme of '# Khelo 5 minutes aur'.

The PM reiterated that in today's world everyone needs to embrace sports and they need to work towards achieving a healthy lifestyle.

This is the second edition of the Khelo India Games, previous year it was organized as Khelo India School Games which has evolved into Khelo India Youth Games this year. This actually is a very ambitious project under the vision of PM Modi and led by Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who himself is a Olympic medalist.

So what is this games all about?

A Factsheet

India is a youthful country where 65% of population is less than the age of 35 years. If we look at the age group of 15-29 years, 27.5 of our population fall in this bracket. These numbers make India one of the youngest countries in the world.

However when we look at the performance of Indian sports in major games like the Olympics and Asian Games, the medals won doesn't commensurate with the population. Also there is a rise in lifestyle related diseases in the country, one of the big reasons for this being lack of exercise/games/sports.

Thus Khelo India was launched in January 2018 with an aim to promote mass participation in sports. Before 2018, there were a number of sports related schemes like Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan, Urban Infrastructure scheme and National Sports Talent Search, to name a few prominent ones. All these schemes and programs were being implemented individually, but they are now brought under one head for better implementation.

This single scheme is known as 'Khelo India'.

In fact these games take inspiration from a similar effort organized by the Gujarat government - known as Khel Mahakumbh.

Larger in stature and of national scope, the Khelo India Games aim to make India a sporting power one day.

The first edition of the Khelo India Games was held in January of 2018 and it was inaugurate by PM Narendra Modi. The Game uniquely took forward the Indian ethos of guru-shishya parampara into the sporting arena.

This year, Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, a sports complex situated in Belawadi, Pune, was the major center for the games.

Objectives of Khelo India

The prime objective of Khelo India is to make India a great and successful sporting country. The game has been brought in to inject a new life in the Indian sports and revive Indian sports culture. This can be only achieved if everyone in India plays at least one game. Thus to ensure mass participation of the public in games, Khelo India program has been launched.

The objectives are as under:

  1. a) Mass participation of youth in annual sports competitions through a structured competition.
  2. b) Identification of talent in the grass-root
  3. c) Guidance and nurturing of the talent through existing sports academies and new set up either by the central Government or State Government or in PPP mode.
  4. d) Creation of Sports Infrastructure at lower levels such as the Tehsil, District, State levels and so on.

The game is designed in such a way that it can be implemented across the country. The competition structure covers the entire country, down to the block level.

The competition is organized at 5 age group levels: 6-12, under-18, 18-36, 36-50 and 50 above age groups. The interesting and important point to note here is that it is not the children and the youth alone who are encouraged to participate, competitive programs are also introduced for even people above the age of 50! This truly is a paradigm shift - a change from what has been happening in the country.

I have written this earlier also, but even at the sake of repetition, would like to remind what Kapil Dev once said about how sporting culture can come to India. The great Indian athlete and world cup winner said that India will be a sporting culture country when the grandparents go out with kids for a run. What he meant was that when all age group people are equally enthusiastic about games and sports, then only true sports culture can be established in the country. 

Now by introducing games for all age levels, the Khelo India program has truly led us to be a sporting nation one day. Another idea behind organizing competitions for the age group above 36 is to encourage the adult population to indulge in games and get rid of lifestyle related diseases.

The organizational structure of the Khelo India can be understood by this diagram:

Another important aspect to keep in mind about these schemes is that the competitions are all fully funded by the central government

Sports associations and federations can be involved for conducting the competitions.

While the larger aim is to keep the population involved in games and thus attain physical fitness, another important aim is to drastically increase the medals tall of India in major Games like the Olympics and the Asian Games.

There is prominent talent hunt scheme associated with Khelo India that seeks to identify talent at young age, give them proper scholarships and training so that they are prepared to take on the best of the world  when their time comes.

Kheloge Kudoge Banoge Lajawaab - Play sports to excel in life!

One of the common refrains in India homes used to be - Kheloge Kudoge Hoge Kharaab, Padhoge Likhoge Banoge Nawab ( If you indulge in sports, you will be spoilt but if you study hard you can become like a king). The Khelo India has turned this dictum upside down with their call for mass participation in sports with this great punchline –

Kheloge Kudoge Banoge Lajawaab - Play sports to excel in life that is play sports to excel in life.

In the Khelo India Youth Games of 2019, participation was allowed under two categories - (Under 17) and (Under 21). This year saw huge participation as the number almost doubled to 9000 athletes who took part in the games in Pune.The best 1000 young athletes kids are scheduled to receive a scholarship of Rupees 5,00,000 per year for next eight years. This will help them to prepare for big international events.

The Khelo India Games 2019 was a huge success. It was beamed live Star India while online broadcast was done on Hotstar.


We remember with great enthusiasm the fitness challenge movement that was launched last year. Both the PM and the sports minister posed with fitness photos and videos and urged the citizen to tag others with their own fitness related pictures and videos. This innovative campaign became a raging hit online and was viral for many months. What a campaign like this also did was that it enlightened the people about importance of fitness in life and cajoled them to do their own fotness activities.

A similar campaign was launched this time which was named #5MinuteAur - meaning 'give five more minutes to exercise and sports'.

The official broadcasters of the games and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports urged the citizens of India to go out and play with the use of the hashtag: #5MinuteAur.

The idea behind this campaign was that if every child gives this 5 minute extra into games and sports, this will translate into billions of minutes of extra practice by the our nationals. Slowly this will build the momentum and India can realize its true potential in sporting events by winning a large number of medals.

In the Khelo Indian Youth Games 2019, 18 sports were played. They were

  • Archery . Athletics . Badminton . Basketball . Boxing . Football .  Gymnastics .  Hockey .  Judo .  Kabaddi .  Kho-kho .  Shooting .  Swimming .  Table-tennis .  Tennis .  Volleyball .  Weightlifting .  Wrestling

Two new games, table tennos and tennis were introduced this year.

More that 900 athletes from 29 states and 7 union territories  participated in these games along with1800 Technical Officials, 1000 volunteers and 1000 personnel who worked behind the scenes.

There was intense competition among states to be on top of the medals tally. This honour went to hosts Maharastra this time as they bagged a total of 227 medals. Their tally included 85 gold medals, 61 silver medals and 81 bronze medals.

The state that stood second was none other than Haryana with their tally of 178 medals comprising 62 gold, 56 silver and 60 bronze medals.

Delhi came third with a total of 136 medals  -48 gold, 37 silver and 51 bronze medals.

When compared with the first Khelo India Games of 2018, we can see that this year Maharashtra toppled Haryana to take the first spot. Delhi maintained its position of third place in the games.

Star performers:

The Khelo India Youth Games 2019 threw up a number of fresh talent and few proven performers too shone brightly. Here are a few players who outshone others:

Bavleen Kaur

After Dipa Karmakar, India is seeing a host of young superstars in gymnastics - Bavleen Kaur from Jammu and Kashmir showed she is also one of the brighter new talents in the country. She won a total of 5 medals that included three gold medals.

Dhanush Srikant

This 16-year-old shooter from Telangana shot a superb 629.7 in the qualification round then shot 248.9 in the final to win gold medal. Despite having hearing disability and having picked the game only two year back, Srikant proved that he can be the one for the future.

Sakshi Rajendra Shitole

He archer from Maharashtra ensured that her state stayed at the top of the medals tally with her gold medal in the event that was held last on the games.

Sakshi defeated West Bengal's Suparna Singh 6-0. She wants to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and make India proud.

While the above three were fresh talents identified at the Khelo India Games, some others who have won earlier too, also left their mark.

Srihari Nataraj: This 18 year old swept the swimming events with a jaw-dropping 7 gold medals. He bettered the record he set last year.

Jeremy Lalrinnunga

This young athlete from Manipur made 14 national records in weightlifting! He participated in u-17 and u-19 categories and made new records as follows : 6 in snatch, 4 in clean and jerk and 4 overall. Jeremy won 2 medals overall and is looked upon as bright hope for future.

Hope is what the Khelo India Games has brought to Indian society as India treads towards becoming a sporting nation.

The author is a Senior Sports journalist and academician. email Id: vidhanshu.kumar@gmail.com