My dear friends,
I welcome all of you on behalf of 140 crore countrymen and congratulate you all!
What a wonderful coincidence that the first Asian Games were held at this very place, in this same stadium, in 1951. Today, because of the courage you have shown, the efforts you have made and the results you have brought, there is an atmosphere of celebration in every corner of the country. You worked day and night to cross 100 medal tally. The whole country is feeling proud due to the performance of all the athletes like you in the Asian Games.
Today, on behalf of the entire country, I heartily congratulate and express my gratitude to the trainers and coaches of our athletes. I deeply appreciate every person involved in this team, support staff, physio, and officials. And I salute your parents in particular, because it starts from home. When children move in this direction of their career path, there is a lot of opposition in the beginning. Parents ask not to waste time and study instead. They mark out the dos and don'ts. Sometimes when a child gets injured, mothers don't let the child go and play again so that the incident wouldn't happen again. And that is why your parents also deserve deep appreciation. Probably you are on the screen, but the people behind your success are never seen on the screen; but this journey from training to the podium is not possible without these people.
You all have created history. The medal tally in this Asian Games is becoming a witness to Bharat's success. This is Bharat's best performance so far in the Asian Games. And personally I am glad that we are going in the right direction. When we were working towards the vaccine, there were several doubts whether it would be successful or not. But when the vaccine was successful, 200 crore doses were administered, lives of the countrymen were saved, and it helped 150 countries around the world, I felt assured that our direction was right. Today as you have become successful, I once again feel that our direction is right.
This time Bharat has won the maximum number of medals in athletics on foreign land. Highest ever medal in shooting, highest ever medal in archery, highest ever medal in squash, highest ever medal in rowing, highest ever medal in female boxing, first time gold medal in women’s cricket, first time gold medal in male cricket, gold medal in squash mixed doubles for the first time. You have won a flurry of gold medals. And you see, we have won a medal in women's shot put after seventy-two years; we have won a medal in 4X4 100-meter relay after sixty-one years; we won a medal in horse-riding after forty-one years, and in men's badminton after forty years. That is, for four, five and six decades the country was yearning to hear this news; and you have fulfilled that. Just imagine how your efforts have ended the long wait of several years.
This time there was one more special thing which I would definitely like to mention. In most of the games and events we have participated in, we have brought home a medal. So, this in itself proves that our canvas is growing; and it is a very auspicious sign for Bharat. There were 20 events in which the country had not got a podium finish till date. In several games you have not just created a fresh beginning but also a new path; a path that will inspire an entire generation of youth; a path that will now go beyond the Asian Games and instill new confidence in our journey towards the Olympics.
I am also proud that our women have performed tremendously well in these sports. The passion with which our women players have performed shows the potential of Bharat's daughters. More than half of the medals Bharat has won in the Asian Games have been won by our female athletes. In fact, this historic success was initiated by our women cricket team.
Daughters have won the maximum number of medals in boxing. In Track and Field, it seemed as if our daughters had come with the sole intention of being at the forefront. The daughters of Bharat are not ready to accept anything less than rank 1. And this is the spirit of new Bharat. This is the strength of the new Bharat. The new Bharat does not give up its efforts till the final result is declared, or till the final victory is achieved. The new Bharat tries to give its best, to do its best.
My dear athletes,
You also are aware of the fact that there has never been any shortage of talent in our country. There was always a spirit of victory in the country. Our players have performed very well in the past also. But due to various challenges, we were left behind in terms of medals. Therefore, since 2014, Bharat is engaged in modernizing and reviving its sports ecosystem. Our effort is to ensure that Indian players get the best training facilities in the world. Bharat's effort is to ensure that Indian players get maximum opportunities to play in the country and abroad. Our effort is to ensure that Indian players get transparency in selection, and there is no discrimination against them. Our effort is to ensure that sports talent in villages should also get maximum opportunities. We are putting in all our efforts to ensure that the morale of all our players remains intact and that they do not face any lack of resources.
The budget of the sports sector has also been increased 3 times compared to 9 years ago. Our TOPS and Khelo India Scheme have proved to be game changers. And it is said that people of Gujarat know only one game – the game of money. But when Khelo Gujarat was started, gradually a sporty culture started developing there. And that experience gave me an idea and on the basis of that experience, we started Khelo India here and it was extremely successful.
There are about 125 athletes in this Asian Games whose talents were discovered through the Khelo India campaign. More than 40 of these have also won medals. The fact that so many players from the Khelo India campaign have reached the podium shows that the Khelo India campaign is in the right direction. And I would also urge you, wherever you are from, whenever you give a talk in schools and colleges, encourage everyone to participate in Khelo India. Their lives begin from there.
From talent identification to modern training and the world's best coaching, today Bharat is not lagging behind in any parameter. Presently, more than 3000 talented athletes are undergoing their training through Khelo India Scheme. The government is also giving a scholarship of more than Rs 6 lakh to every player every year for their coaching, medical, diet, training etc.
Under this scheme, now assistance of about Rs 2500 crores is being given directly to the athletes. And I assure you, lack of money will never hinder your efforts. The government is going to spend Rs 3000 crore more in the next five years for the sports. Today, modern sports infrastructure is being developed for you in every corner of the country.
Your performance in the Asian Games has excited me for one more thing. This time many young athletes have made their place in the medal tally. And when young players achieve great heights, they become the identity of our sporting nation. This is the sign of a sporting nation. And that is why today I specially congratulate these youngest of the athletes who have emerged victorious because you are going to serve the country for a long time. These new young winners will perform brilliantly for the country for a long time. According to the new thinking, young Bharat is no longer satisfied with just good performance, rather it wants medals and victories.
Young generation uses one word quite a lot these days - 'GOAT' - i.e. Greatest of All Time. For the country, you all are 'GOATs'. Your passion, your dedication, your childhood stories, are an inspiration to everyone. They inspire other youngsters to achieve bigger goals. I have seen that the little kids are so impressed by you. They look at you and want to be like you. You should make good use of your positive influence and connect with as many youngsters as possible. I remember that earlier when I had requested the players to go to the schools and meet the children, many players had gone to the schools. Some of them are also present here. Neeraj went to a school, and the children there praised Neeraj a lot. Today I want to make a similar request to all of you again. The country has the right to demand something from you too, right? Why did you fall silent? Yes or No? No, I can't hear you; looks like something is wrong. The country expects something from you too, isn't it? Will you fulfil that expectation?
Look, my dear athletes,
The country is currently fighting a decisive battle against drugs. You all know very well about the side effects of drugs. Unintentional doping can also destroy a player's career. Many times, the desire to win leads some people to wrong paths, but this is what I want to caution you and our youth through you. You will alert our youth because you all are winners. And by walking on the right path, you have achieved great success. So, there is no need for anyone to go on the wrong path. They will listen to you. And hence you can play a major role in this.
You are a symbol of determination and mental strength. Medals do not come from physical strength alone; mental strength plays a massive role and you have plenty of it. This is your greatest asset and that asset should be useful to the country. You are also the biggest brand ambassadors for educating the young generation of Bharat about the harmful effects of drugs. Whenever you get a chance, if anyone asks you for a byte or an interview, please tell them these two sentences - This is what I want to say to my young friends of the country. Please say this, because you have achieved something and the youth of the country will listen to you.
I request you to make it your mission that while meeting people, while giving interviews, you must create awareness in schools and colleges about the menace of drugs. You should come forward to strengthen the fight for a drug-free Bharat.
You also know the importance of superfoods, and how important it is for fitness and the way you have given priority to nutritious food in your lifestyle, and have stayed away from eating many things despite liking them. Knowing what not to eat is more important than what to eat. And that is why I would say that you can definitely provide a lot of guidance regarding nutritious food to the children of the country regarding their food habits. You can also play a major role in millet movement and nutrition mission. You should talk more to children about right eating habits in schools.
What you have done on the playground is also a part of a bigger canvas. When the country progresses, its impact is visible in every field. We are seeing the same happening in Bharat's sports sector too. When conditions are not good in the country, it is reflected in the sports field too. Today, when Bharat is gaining an important place on the world stage, you have demonstrated it in the sports field also. Today, when Bharat is moving towards becoming a top-3 economy in the world, our youth directly benefit from it. Therefore, today you can see that in space, Bharat's name is shining bright. People are talking about Chandrayaan everywhere.
Today Bharat is on top in the world of startups. Amazing work is being done in science and technology. Bharat's youth is performing well in entrepreneurship. The CEOs of some of the top companies around the world are the children of Bharat, the youth of Bharat. That means the youth potential of Bharat is visible in every sector. The country has great confidence in all players like you. With this confidence we had given the slogan of ‘100 Paar’. You have fulfilled that wish. Next time we will go much further than this record. And now we also have the Olympics in front of us. Prepare diligently for Paris. Those who could not succeed this time, there is no need to be disappointed. We will learn from mistakes and make new efforts. I believe you too will definitely win. The Para Asian Games are also going to start after a few days from 22nd October. Through you, I also convey my best wishes to all the children and players participating in the Para Asian Games. I once again congratulate all of you for this brilliant performance, for this brilliant achievement and for making the country proud.
Thank you very much.