Manoj Godara,12 Oct, Pune :The 3rd Edition of Commonwealth Youth Games, a spectacular sporting bonanza was kicked off with fervor and festivities marked by striking star performances. The rich cultural heritage of India and the great Maratha spirit came alive late in the Sunday evening, as the spectacular sporting bonanza of the Commonwealth Youth Games 2008 was inaugurated in Pune. President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil declared the games open in the presence of eminent dignitaries, famed athletes and galleries full of sports lovers. She also released a series of four postal stamps to commemorate the commonwealth youth games. The two-week long extravaganza is scheduled from the 12th to 18th October 2008. the relay will be in support of the ‘save the tiger’ campaign as the games have been officially named as ‘Green Games’.The water collected through the Youth Baton Relay is to symbolize the conservation of natural resources, and was used at the opening ceremony to create a "fountain of Youth".
Over 1,700 athletes and officials from 71 commonwealth countries are participating in 9 disciplines -Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling.
The opening ceremony at the impressive Athletics Stadium at Balewadi Sports Complex on the outskirts of Pune began with the welcome note by the 21st Rajput Regiment band and an elegant equestrian parade by Mewar Horses. National Anthem was played by renowned Santoor player Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and his son Rahul Sharma while noted dancer-actor Hema Malini performed the Ganesh Vandana. The famed helicopter display team of the Indian Air Force ‘Sarang’ showcased various maneuvers, which received wide applause. Thereafter the Akashganga paratroopers touched down in various formations.
Commonwealth Games Federation President, Michael Fennel said "games show us how to live with harmony and love through our differences, and the youth represent the prevailing values and traditions of any nation at any given point of time. So it is the need of the hour to propagate better relations among our youth through sports."
The games Baton Relay was carried by P T Usha, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, Gopichand, Anjali Bhagwat, Dhanraj Pillai, Jitendra Kumar, Nandu Natekar, Ajit Pal Singh, Zafar Iqbal, Akhil Kumar, Sushil Kumar and Vijender among others.
Ace shooter and Olympic Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra picked up the Kalash with water from ‘Tribune of Honour’ and poured the water into the Grand Kalash. Then the ‘Fountain of Youth’ came alive.’ All the participating nations brought a sample of pious water from their respective contingents contributing their concern for the preservation of ecosystem through clean water, sowing trees and saving the wildlife.
The Commonwealth Youth Games at Pune are being seen as a curtain raiser for the Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Indian in New Delhi in 2010. The youth games will also serve to identify India‘s medal winning potential athletes for the main Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Olympic Games.
"The most unique feature of these games is their venue. Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi on the outskirts of Pune is unique as it is for the first time that the competition venues of all disciplines and the athletes’ village will be housed in a single sports complex." said Suresh Kalmadi, President Indian Olympic Association.
The mascot of the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games is "Jigrr". The mascot is a tiger, the national animal of India. Jigrr is the younger brother of ‘Shera’, the mascot of 2010 Commonwealth Games. Jigrr the name is an amalgam of the word "Jigar", which implies courage in Hindi and also the sound of a tiger roar ‘grrr…’