Surat (Gujarat)[India], September 18 (ANI): The quaint city of Surat will enjoy the special privilege of becoming the first host city of the 36th National Games, with table tennis action set to begin nine days before the official start on September 29 with the Opening Ceremony.Appropriately, some of the country's biggest star athletes will be seen in action here from September 20 to September 24, with Tamil Nadu's Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan G and Delhi's Manika Batra leading the star parade.
Gujarat's fans are even more excited as their own stars, Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar will lead their state's challenge. The duo joined the squad on Friday after completing their international commitments and are raring to go.
They will get ample home support to boost the chances of the home team and are hoping to bag at least 3-4 medals from TT. Their haul will help Gujarat begin on a positive note to be on course for their dream of finishing in the Top Five.
"I am thrilled to be back home and am really looking forward to the Games. I have twice played at the Indoor Stadium and have always done well. I have great memories of this venue and I hope it proves to be third time lucky for me," India No.3 Harmeet said.
For Manav, this will be the first time playing a major event in front of his home crowd. "I started my TT journey from a small room at Sufaiz academy. It's a dream to be representing my state team at such a prestigious event. I will give my best and will try to make my city proud," the 22-year-old former World Under-21 champion said.
Director of competition, Kushal Sangtani informed that players from other states have started coming in and have been put up in the best hotels in the city. "From the 19th, the players will be allowed to practice at the event venue to help them acclimatise to the conditions."Arriving athletes will get the feel of a festive atmosphere and a big-ticket sporting event as soon as they are out of the airport or railway station, with National Games hoardings, banners and volunteers greeting them at every turn.
Several kiosks have also been set up at major locations to guide visitors even as several activations are in force, urging and inviting residents to come out in large numbers to watch the stars in action.
The government has already taken up one of the biggest sports outreach programmes, organising games and recreational events at almost every school and college across the state.
Sports minister Harsh Sanghvi was also in the city to create awareness among the Surtis about the games, appealing to them to back the players, especially the state team, to perform at their best. (ANI)