Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday flagged off the Asian Athletics Championships’ mascot rally at the Kalinga Stadium here.
The rally was flagged off from the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar, the venue of the Asian Athletics Championships, which has also been completely renovated and upgraded to host the premier track and field event of the continent.
A brand new synthetic track, complete with floodlights and a brand new warm-up facility has been setup to host the Championships.
The Chief Minister said, “The 22ndAsian Athletics Championships will be the largest ever sporting event in Bhubaneshwar with participation of 45 countries. Bhubaneshwar has emerged as a sought-after destination for international sports competitions, as it will also host the Hockey World League Final in December 2017 and the prestigious Men’s Hockey World Cup in December 2018. For this purpose, Kalinga Stadium has been transformed into a world class infrastructure facility for hosting international events as per the requirements of the IAAF.”
“The Olive Ridley turtles are our state’s pride, and I hope that through our mascot, Olly, we can create more awareness about their protection and conservation throughout the country,” he added.
Sports secretary Vishal Kumar Dev said, “The Asian Athletics Championships is testimony to Odisha’s keenness to go the extra mile and bring international sporting events to the State. Through this, we hope to provide our athletes and sportspersons exposure to the best sporting talent in the world and raise the profile of the State in the field of sports. We are proud to be hosting Asia’s biggest athletics event.”
The beautifully designed mascot will generate awareness amongst the masses and create a sense of belongingness to the Championships. Olly represents the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles that travel thousands of miles in the ocean and arrive in millions every year on the Rushikulya & Gahirmatha beaches of Odisha for their annual nesting.
Through this meet, the Government of Odisha will be contributing towards raising awareness for the protection of the endangered species and preserving their natural habitat.
This is the third time the Asian Athletics Championships are being held in India, after New Delhi (1989) and Pune (2013). The 22nd edition of Asia’s flagship Athletics meet is also going to be its biggest ever, with nearly 1000 athletes participating in the competition which will be a qualifying event for the IAAF World Championships in London.