`Sheen-e-She’: Gulmarg all decked up to host Khelo India Winter Games; 800 athletes from 20 states participating   

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Srinagar: The stage is all set for the Khelo India Winter Games at  Gulmarg in the third week of February.

Thanks to late snowfall, Gulmarg is bracing up to welcome the athletes for the national tourney. This year J&K and Ladakh will jointly host the Khelo India Winter Games.

Late snowfall not only enhanced the venue’s beauty but also made slopes suitable for the event. At the same time, the freezing temperature in Ladakh is expected to solidify ice rinks for the event.

“We were waiting for snowfall.  Since snowfall has occurred, the event will take place in the third week of February. Until then, we’re hoping to get more snow,” Sarmad Hafeez, Secretary, Youth Services and Sports, told The Kashmir Monitor.

J&K has hosted all three editions of the competition for the last three years. The 1st edition of the Khelo India Winter Games was successfully held at Gulmarg from March 7 to 11, 2020. Around 1123 athletes competed in 13 disciplines in this edition.

The 2nd edition of the Khelo India Winter Games was successfully held at Gulmarg from February 26 to March 2, 2021. Nearly 1208 athletes competed in 11 disciplines in this edition. 

The 3rd edition of Khelo India Winter Games could not be held due to COVID-19. Instead, the event was held in 2023. The event was successfully conducted at Gulmarg from February 10 to 14 2023, in which 1395 athletes competed 11 disciplines.

“After three successful editions, we are hosting the 4th edition of Khelo India,” Sarmad Hafeez said.

Organizers have made a slight change in the format of the fourth edition of Khelo India. Ice-related sports events including Snow Skating, Ice Hockey, and Curling have been shifted to Ladakh. Snow sports events will be held in the world-famous ski resort, Gulmarg in J&K.

According to official data, around 800 athletes, officials, and support staff shall participate in the Snowboarding, Alpine Ski, Nordic Ski, and Snow Mountaineering competitions.

Twenty states are competing in the Alpine Ski, Nordic Ski, and snowboarding while ten states are competing in the Ski Mountaineering competitions. 

Sarmad Hafeez said that Jammu and Kashmir has emerged as the winter sports capital of the country and there is no other place that provides such perfect slopes, beauty, and facilities.

 “We are focusing on the Olympic games and producing talented athletes for our country. We will be able to train people that come out of Khelo India for upcoming international competitions,” said Sarmad Hafeez.

Secretary,  J&K Sports Council, Nuzhat Gul told The Kashmir Monitor that the fourth edition of the Khelo India Winter Games will begin with the unveiling of its mascot, which is exclusive to the host areas of J&K and Ladakh.

She added that every participant will be housed in 3 and 4-star hotels. “The Cable Car facility to carry skiers up the slopes of Apharwat and Kangdori has also been made available. Cultural evening programs are also specially organized for all the participants and a good number of tourists also attend these programs,” she said.

 “The main objective of the event is to channel the youth’s energy in the right direction and promote winter sports in the country,” she added.

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Snow Leopard `Sheen-e-Seh’ or Schan or Rchan is the mascot for this year’s Khelo India Winter Games. It symbolizes the unique natural heritage and the importance of wildlife conservation in both regions. The Snow Leopard’s habitat in the high altitudes of J&K and Ladakh reflects the challenging terrain and the spirit of resilience that is often associated with winter sports.

 “Featuring the Snow Leopard as a mascot helps raise awareness about the need to protect this endangered species which is enlisted in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of  Nature(IUCN). It also showcases the commitment to preserving its natural environment and promoting sustainable practices, aligning with the values of the Khelo India Winter Games,” said Nuzhat Gul.

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