Goa will now be known as the land of sun, sea, sand and sports with the new ‘S’ of sports entailing a four per cent reservation in government jobs in all departments to sportspersons excelling at the national level, declared Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant as the curtains were drawn on the 37th National Games at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Taleigao.
Having won its best ever tally of 92 medals – 27 gold, 27 silver and 38 bronze – and 9th on the medals’ table, Sawant promised to keep an investment window open for private entrepreneurs to start a sports university in the state.
At 6.12 pm, when Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar handed over the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) flag to the delegate of next host state, Uttarakhand, the spirit of the National Games that was captivated in Goa since 2015 flew away, thus bringing an end to a journey of trials, tribulations and tributes.
For Goa, the National Games are finally over. No more postponements, no more excuses, no more blame games. What took eight years to reach the starting line was completed in a short span by a trio that had two women at the core – Swetika Sachan and Geeta Nagvenkar – along with Amitabh Sharma.
Whilst the two women got things going with intelligent twinkles in their eyes, Amitabh threw his sports experience to stitch the Goan diasporas for an event of such a magnitude.
There were tweaks that were deterrent to athletes and officials that were avoidable, but the games ended on a smooth ride because they went through their journey of life due to the indomitable spirit of sportsmanship that added colour to living during the 19 days of the competition.
Goa finished with a record of medals but the results never told the true story as chief guest Vice President Dhankhar said, “Goa is a tiny state physically which has a large heart.”
As speaker after speaker kept dipping in the cup of joy and happiness, college student Shallet who was part of the party said, “We finished with a tally of 92 medals in comparison to the five won last time. Numbers do not matter, one’s identity does and that was what was missing on the field.”
“Were we the only state to use players from other states?” she queried.
As the lights flickered, music blasted and eye balls made contact, emotive and repulsive moments flashed by and the most enduring was that of the Goan athlete enduring all for the honour of one’s State.
From the 92 medals won, a handful were bagged by Goans and they reached the heights because of their love for sport and their parents love for them. Sadly, their State was missing in this story, but Sports Minister Govind Gaude opted to take credit during his interlude to the over 3000 people gathered.
As the invitees clapped, the picture of Kareena Shirodkar cropped up with a gold medal in pencak silat and the mind began to wonder, why wasn’t she who had won some medals in taekwondo before, not selected to represent that discipline?
As singers awed audiences, thoughts kept pouring on why the likes of Sanjana and Shrungi had to depend on their parents to feed the pride in every Goan? Or why was a diver like Meghan unable to compete?
As the dancers performed, the figure of Babu Gaonkar running in Sanguem fleeted past wondering what the future holds for this boy who kicked everyone by winning the first gold for Goa. Will the State assure his future?
The 37th National Games could have ended with much more flutter had our government understood that games are for sportspeople and as Ann Meyers once said, “somebody gives you an opportunity, say yes to it. So what if you fail? You won’t know if you fail or succeed unless you try.”
As the curtains came down and the children began to exit, the free spirit of the National Games hovered over the stadium at Taleigao looking for Gurudutta Bhakta, the man who looked after him during his period of captivity and uncertainty in this State, to say one last hurrah before he flew to Uttarakhand with love from Goa.