Chandigarh, February 29: Passion for hockey dominated the spectacular, star-studded Opening Ceremony played to a packed audience here at the Sector-42 Stadium in Chandigarh for the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey. The performance from Bollywood stars and starlets was preceded by an emotional appeal from Chief Guest and Honourable Union Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports, Shri Ajay Maken, who made a passionate appeal to fellow-Indians to support the national game and help it retain its glorious past.
In his stirring video speech which was beamed to millions of people in over 30 countries, and a moved audience which heard the Sports Minister’s speech in rapt silence, Maken said, “Hockey strikes an emotional chord with us Indians – the legacy and tradition of our national sport is and will always be a matter of great pride to us Indians. I congratulate the World Series Hockey and the Indian Hockey Federation for daring to dream and conducting such a grand hockey feast for the people of India and hockey players of the world.”
The Union Sports Minister further said, “We may have lost ground for some time but that’s part and parcel of sports and life. The good news is that hockey is regaining ground and I’m very happy that the World Series Hockey is being held in India. Sports needs sponsors and entertainment to become popular and it’s very heartening that the WSH is taking care of all these issues. It gives me great pride to see as many as 8 world-class floodlight hockey stadiums in 8 cities across India are being used for the WSH. As India’s Sports Minister it gives me great pride to announce that we are launching the first of its kind, a global league for the sport of hockey.”
Maken added, “I’m told that the Bridgestone WSH league will have 59 matches, featuring the top Indian players and global superstars from across the world. This is an unprecedented achievement and unheard of in hockey in any part of the world.”
The Bridgestone World Series Hockey will be held from February 29 to April 2, 2012, and will involve 200 leading players — Indian and international — who will showcase their talent in 59 matches and vie for the biggest prize money hockey tournament in the world.
The 8 venues for the inaugural edition of the league are Bengaluru, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Jalandhar, Mumbai and Pune. Chandigarh Comets will face-off against Bhopal Badshahs in the first tie of the tournament on their home ground.