44,329 Special Olympics Bharat athletes are playing unified in Khel Mahakhumb, a sports festival in India’s Gujarat state from 29 November to 22 December 2011. In total, there are 200,000 athletes competing in 13 sports with Special Olympics athletes competing in track and field, cycling, roller skating and swimming.
The Gujarati name ‘Khel Mahakhumb’ loosely translates to ‘greatest game gathering’. Khel Mahakumbh was initiated by Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who hopes the event will spark a sports culture in Gujarat. Gujarat is also well known in India for its spirit of volunteerism, exemplifying “one team, one vision.”
Special Olympics Bharat athletes were also actively involved in the lead up Torch Run to the Khel Mahakhumb, which included more than 1000 athletes running across 26 districts covering Gujarat state. Akshay Kumar, Special Olympics Bharat Brand Ambassador and famed Bollywood movie star, kicked off the Opening Ceremony on 28 November in Vadodara. With a Special Olympics athlete by his side, Akshay passionately urged the 50,000 strong crowd to include Special Olympics athletes in their lives, be it at play or sports, and to learn from the athletes’ spirit of sportsmanship and goodwill.