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Indian Winter Games start in Kashmir

Gulmarg, February 18:

The 5th Indian Winter Games started Monday in Gulmarg the world famous skiing and tourist resort of Indian administered Kashmir situated at a height 8700 ft above the sea level.

The pro-India chief minister of Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad was the chief guest on the while Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi was the guest honour.

Eighteen teams with a total of 500 participants from the hosts Indian administered Kashmir and different Indian states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab are participating in the games.

The winter games torch reached Srinagar on Saturday which was brought from the Indian capital New Delhi on February 12 by Gul Mustafa, the only Olympian of Indian administered Kashmir.

Mustafa had brought the torch from New Delhi after crossing various Indian states.

“The maximum participation is from Jammu and Kashmir,” Secretary Tourism Nayeem Akhter said.

He said that the Kashmir government has initiated several measures for efficient competition in various winter sports and up gradation of tourism infrastructure in the region.

Today’s inaugural ceremony included Sky Diving, March Past by athletes, Snow Rugby, Skiing, Snow Scooter, Figure Skating, Alpine Skiing, Cross Country, Nordic Skiing, Ice Skating and Ice Hockey.

The closing ceremony of the games is scheduled for February 22, 2008.

The first Indian National Winter Games were held in Gulmarg in 1998. Gulmarg also hosted the 2004 games.

Gulmarg was again chosen as the venue for the Winter Games 2008. Auli and Shimla are the other two destinations where the games have been held so far.

The games organised every two years are being held under the aegis of Indian Olympic Association.

Director Tourism department, Farooq Shah said, “We are very particular in using this occasion to upgrade the facilities at Gulmarg for other sporting events as well.”

He said that the Tourism department wants to make Gulmarg a destination for organising bigger events.

Apart from the hosts Indian administered Kashmir and teams of different Indian states teams from Indian army and navy, paramilitary BSF are also participating in the games.

The slopes and the quality of snow at Gulmarg are considered to be the best in the region.

The Kashmir government has hired an event management team Magnum Nexus, from New Delhi for the effective management of the event. The team is co-directed by Vidhur Wazir and Rahul Bhalla.

Gulmarg remains covered with snow for almost four to five months and witnesses a huge tourist flow – Indian as well as foreign – throughout the year.

This year the tourist arrival in the region are expected to cross over half a million.

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