DIMAPUR: As many as 28 teams, comprising 671 athletes and officials, from South Asian countries that include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal and different states and Union territories of India arrived in Nagaland for the mega South Asian Cross Country Championship and 56th National Cross Country Championship to be held at Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima on March 26. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Nagaland for hosting the championships, under the aegis of the South Asian Athletics Federation and the Athletics Federation of India, in Kohima. 

Modi said the South Asian Cross-Country Championship and 56th National Cross-Country Championship is an opportunity for national and international athletes to engage in healthy competition as well as learn about each other’s nation, society, culture and customs. 

Wishing the participants success, he said the championships will strengthen bonds of friendship and brotherhood among sportspersons. 

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Modi noted that talents emerging from the rural areas, backward classes as well as tribal society are making the nation proud. 

Around 671 athletes arrived on Thursday. Team Nepal, comprising nine members, was the first international team to have reached the state. 

On arrival, the participants and guests were received at Dimapur airport and railway station by members of the reception committee set up for the event.  

They were then connected with the respective liaison officers through the reception committee after which they proceeded to Kohima.  

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The reception committee and security personnel will be in the train station 24X7 for facilitating the participants/guests. 

Altogether 26 athletes from Nagaland will be taking part in the milestone sporting event in the state. 

Vice president of the Athletics Federation of India Abu Metha said the mascot of the championships is ‘Akimji’, meaning happy and running Hornbill bird. Hornbill is the state bird of Nagaland. 

He said the event signifies the energy and ambition of the new generation of the Naga youth and shows that the Nagas have arrived at the international stage and aspire to reach a higher standard. 

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Dwelling on the significance of the event being held in Nagaland, Metha said: “’Such a big event coming to our own backyard allows our athletes to compete at national and international level in our home conditions.”  

Apart from promoting brand Nagaland, the event would develop, promote sports and give opportunities to the youth. 

Metha said the athletes will be running different races of 2 km to 10 km and the main events will be held at Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima. 

Bhadra Gogoi

Bhadra Gogoi is Northeast Now Correspondent in Nagaland. He can be reached at: bhadragogoi@yahoo.com