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National Games Kick Off in Kerala; Sachin Tendulkar Star Attraction

Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar at the Giants International Awards in Mumbai, on Sept. 17, 2014. (Photo: Sandeep Mahankal/IANS)

Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar at the Giants International Awards in Mumbai, on Sept. 17, 2014. (Photo: Sandeep Mahankal/IANS)

Tendulkar was roped in by the Kerala government as the goodwill ambassador for the Games and even while Malayalam superstar Mohanlal came under flak from certain quarters for allegedly collecting money to stage his nearly four-hour-long musical show, those who found fault with him looked at Tendulkar who has not charged anything.

Each time the speakers mentioned the name of Tendulkar, the more than 40,000-strong crowd roared and when chief minister Oommen Chandy welcomed him, the roar went on for a few minutes prompting Chandy to profusely thank the cricketing icon.

“I and my government on behalf of the people of Kerala extend our thanks to you for gracing this occasion and also by being the goodwill ambassador. Your gesture towards us will always be remembered,” said Chandy.

Another round of cheers waited for him when various sporting legends from Kerala carrying the torch went up to the podium to hand it over to him. There was more clapping and shouting when he handed it to Anju Bobby George and P.T. Usha who lit the massive Kerala ‘nilavilaku'(traditional lamp).

When the clock struck 6 p.m., the chenda melam (percussion) event led by Padma Shri Mattanur Sankarankutty started the programme when more than 100 chenda melam artistes made merry striking their chenda to unison.

It was followed by the impressive march past by all the participating teams with an estimated 5,000 athletes taking part. Taking the salute was chief guest M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development. Welcoming the gathering, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said what’s been seen here is the victory of sports.

The event is going to be held at 30 venues in seven districts of the state and up for grabs are a record 1,369 medals. The sporting events will start Sunday and the closing ceremony would be held in this stadium Feb 14. Incidentally this is the second time that Kerala is playing host, with 1987 being the first time.

But compared to a rather small event in 1987, in sheer size this is indeed the biggest ever sporting event that has ever taken place in the state as over 10,000 athletes including officials will take part, besides a 2,500-strong media contingent.

The swanky brand new stadium, built from scratch in less than 20 months, was buzzing with activity since afternoon as people queued up to take their seats.

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