Kingdom, India Find Ways To Boost Cooperation In Sports

RIYADH, 16 February 2007 — Saudi Arabia and India are to set up a permanent panel to boost cooperation in sports and youth welfare sector. This joint committee is within the framework of the Saudi-Indo cooperation announced by Prince Sultan ibn Fahd, president of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare (GPYW) and Mani Shankar Aiyer, the visiting India’s minister of sports and youth affairs, here yesterday after their official talks.

“The two countries have agreed to set up this permanent executive panel,” said Saudi and Indian officials, while explaining the new proposal of bilateral cooperation in the field of youth and sports. “Riyadh and New Delhi have also worked out an ambitious common program including an exchange of youth delegations this year,” said Prince Sultan after hosting a lunch in honor of the visiting delegation yesterday.

In attendance during the bilateral talks and lunch at the local Olympic Committee Complex were several senior Saudi and Indian officials including Prince Nawaf ibn Faisal, GPYW’s deputy chief. Indian Ambassador M. O. H. Farook, B. K. Sinha, Secretary of Sports Authority of India (a senior IPS officer of Haryana cadre) and Deputy Chief of Mission Rajeev Shahare were also present. Aiyer’s visit to the Kingdom is significant in light of the growing profile of India in international sports.

The Indian capital city of New Delhi, with a population of 15 million, will host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. This will be the biggest multi-sport event to be conducted in the city, which has previously played host to the Asian Games in 1951 and 1982. India will be only the third developing country to host the event after Jamaica in 1966 and Malaysia in 1998. This is only the second time the event will be held in Asia, while India is also a candidate for the 2014 Asian Games.

Asked to comment on his talks with the Indian minister, Prince Sultan said that “we are also improving the agreement, signed earlier with India and necessary amendments will be made for our interests.”

“India is a very friendly country and we would like to forge closer cooperation in all sectors especially in the field of youth and sports,” said Prince Sultan, adding that the two nations will share their experience by intimate contacts on a number of occasions in future.

The prince said that “I am also happy to receive an invitation to visit India and I hope I will be visiting shortly.”

“We have decided to set up the executive committee as a permanent body, which over the next several years oversee the specifics of our cooperation program on a year to year basis in sports and youth welfare sector,” said Aiyer. He said that “the committee, which will meet in Delhi in early September this year, will deal both with youth affairs as well as sports.”

“In September itself, we will have a Saudi youth delegation and the representatives of Saudi sports institutions visiting us,” he said. “In the field of sports, there appears to be a considerable prospect of cooperation especially in games like football, volleyball, handball, basketball, athletics and equestrian,” said the Indian minister, adding that these are the primary priority areas that have been identified by the two sides.

“In the areas of youth affairs, we have agreed that there will be an exchange of youth delegations, about 10 young men on either side to visit each other,” he said.

Aiyer explained that the Indian youth delegation will visit Riyadh next month along with the representatives of the Rajiv Ghandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD) to begin a process of faculty cooperation with its counterpart Saudi institutes.

The RGNIYD, an apex institute fully funded by the Indian government, is an autonomous organization of the Indian Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. Located at Sriperumbudur, only 40 minutes away from south Indian metropolitan city of Chennai, RGNIYD functions as vital resource center coordinating training programs, orientation, research and outreach initiatives for governments and youth organizations.

Of the sports facilities in India, Aiyer said “we are engaged in upgrading and adding to our existing sports facilities in keeping with the norms laid down by the Commonwealth Games Federation”.

“So, there is a substantial improvement in expansion in facilities particularly in Indian capital city,” he said. But, according to a report published recently, a staggering 720 million Indians in the 0-35 age-group still lack access to sporting facilities.

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