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National Games

Indian National Games: A brief history of the multisport event

In the early 1920s, the Indian chapter of the Olympic Movement was born when Indian athletes participated in the Antwerp Olympics. Four years later, a new event, named as National Games, came up to cater to the needs of the country's athletes.

Indian National Games: A brief history of the multisport event
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National Games 2022 Opening Ceremony (source: Olympics.com)

By

Deepanshu Jain

Updated: 20 Oct 2023 11:39 AM GMT

The 37th National Games will get underway on October 25 in Goa.

The National Games consist of multiple sports and disciplines in which athletes from different states and union territories of India participate. The Games provide exposure to the youth and rising athletes of the country, allowing them to rub shoulders with established names and gain experience.

In the early 1920s, the Indian chapter of the Olympic Movement was born when Indian athletes participated in the Antwerp Olympics. Four years later, a new event, named the National Games, came up to cater to the needs of Indian athletes.

The country's first National Games were held in 1924 at Lahore, now in Pakistan, in what was then undivided India. The National Games were initially envisioned to be a biennial event. However, logistical and scheduling issues have meant that the Games have been held in intervals over the years.

Modern National Games

After the initial surge, the National Games, however, gradually lost its charm. Ahead of the 26th edition in 1985, the IOA decided to change the structure of the National Games to restore the interest among the athletes and the fans of Indian sports towards the showpiece.

In 1985, the IOA launched the renovated National Games, structured in the style of the Summer Olympics. 26 states were part of the Games, and Maharashtra emerged as the champion of the Games that year.

Since then, there have been ten more editions of modern National Games. The last edition was held in Gujarat, in 2022. This time Goa will host the National Games. Goa was initially planned to host the 36th National Games, but it was stripped of the event with Gujarat hosting it.

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Increase in the number of sports

The National Games grew in stature with every edition as the number of sports increased. The modern National Games, which started with 26 sports in 1985, hosted 30 sports in 2002 and 36 in the previous edition in Gujarat.

The 2023 National Games in Goa will see a further rise, with 43 sports being part of the Games, including non-Olympic sports like Kabaddi, kho kho, lawn bowls, mallakhamb, squash, wushu and yogasana and two demonstration sports in the likes of Gatka and Lagori. The expected number of athletes taking part in the Goa Games is likely to cross the ten thousand-plus mark.

The services team, a team comprising players from the Armed Forces, is the most successful team in the recent editions of the National Games. They are the champions of the last four editions.

Haryana is the second most successful state as they are the only one with the top three finish in each of the last three editions of the National Games. At the 2022 National Games, Services was on top of the medal tally with 128 medals including 61 gold, Maharashtra was second with 39 gold and Haryana was third with 38.

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