Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared open the 36th National Games here on Thursday. Indian sportspersons could not perform well in the past due to nepotism and corruption but his government cleaned up the system, he said on this occasion.
Speaking at a gala ceremony at the Narendra Modi Stadium in the Motera area here, he praised Indian athletes for winning medals in various international events such as the Olympics in recent times.
"The country's sportsmen were capable in the past too. This movement of winning medals could have started earlier too. But, instead of professionalism, there was nepotism and corruption in sports. We have cleaned up the system and pumped in new confidence among the youth," he said in his address to the cheering crowd.
"Your victory in sports will pave the way for the country's success in other fields. The soft power of sports will significantly improve our country's image in the world," he said to the sportspersons.
In keeping with the Olympic convention, but with a modern twist, Gujarat's swimming star Maana Patel brought in the symbolic Torch of Unity into the arena and handed it over to the Prime Minister.
Watched and applauded by several current and past sports icons, including Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, Olympic medallists PV Sindhu, Ravi Dahiya, Mirabai Chanu, Gagan Narang, former national hockey captain and new HI chief Dilip Tirkey along with World Championship medallist Anju Bobby George, the Prime Minister placed the Torch on the podium for it to be lit by augmented reality.