Gulmarg ready for Fifth National Winter Games

February 16th, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by admin  

Gulmarg (Jammu and Kashmir), Feb 16 (IANS) At 9,000 feet above sea-level and over seven feet of snow on the ground, this Jammu and Kashmir town is all set to host the Fifth National Winter Games. About 400 athletes are expected to participate in the mega event from Feb 18-22.

“The setting could just not be more perfect. We had wonderful snowfall here recently. The slopes are virgin and ready for the competitions,” said Jammu and Kashmir Winter Games Association secretary Shabir Ahmad Wani.

“More than 400 athletes from all over the country are reaching here on the 17th of this month to participate in this national event that would be declared open by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday,” said Wani, who is also treasurer of the Winter Games Federation of India.

Athletes would compete in various disciplines like Alpine skiing that includes slalom, giant slalom, snow boarding, Nordic skiing, cross country, skating, speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey.

“We are using snowmobiles and the Gandola cable car to carry the competitors to the start gate of the games.

“Competitors would be using their own gear for the various events, but the federation is providing them free boarding and lodging at Gulmarg. All the hotels here have been booked for the event,” Wani said.

Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association, will be supervising the games that started in 1998 and were inaugurated by then prime minister I.K. Gujral.

Sports lovers and tourists have already started reaching this resort town. Every hotel, restaurant, tea-stall owner, taxi driver and pony-man is getting a share of the business in Gulmarg.

With the 15-km road stretch from Tangmarg to Gulmarg bound on two sides with high piles of accumulated snow, only expert taxi drivers who can ply their vehicles on this road.

“We have to use chains on our tyres to manage the highly slippery frozen road stretch from Tangmarg to Gulmarg,” said Abdul Salam, 31, a taxi driver here.

In addition to domestic tourists, there are many foreigners here too. Some have booked private helicopters to reach Gulmarg.

“The spectacle is simply breathtaking. It just could not be better,” said John, 22, a sportsman from Austria.

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