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The 29th annual Australian Sikh Games held in Brisbane
The Australian Sikh Games embody the rigorous discipline of sport and the warmth of the rich Punjabi community spirit. An annual fiesta of superb sporting showmanship, the 29th Sikh games were held in Brisbane during the Easter weekend from 25-27 March and were inaugurated by Maharani Preneet Kaur, an MP from India.
As I drove to the Moreton Bay Sports Club in Tingalpa to cover the event, the thing that impressed me most was the huge amount of logistic coordination that went into organising an event of this scale and magnitude.
Launched 28 years ago in 1988 to rally together the Punjabi community, the Games are held each year in a different Australian capital city and have evolved significantly into an event that now boasts not only Australia-wide participation but also international participation from New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Parminder Singh, one of the organising committee members, told Indian Link, “Athletes from all Australian states except Tasmania have come to participate in these Games. There are not many Sikhs living in Tasmania,” he added.
“Last year the Games were held in Woolgoolga which is not a capital city but there is a large Sikh population. This year we have many sporting events like kabaddi, soccer and cultural entertainment. It is a complete package of Punjabi culture!”
Approximately 25,000 people participated in these Games, and Singh Sabha Gurudwara, Taigum organised the langar which served delicious meals to all the people who visited during the three days.
The ambience was that of a typical Punjabi mela with riotous colours, rib tickling revelry and a display of strength and might. The major attraction was kabbadi, a popular sport in Punjab, and the final event was won by Melbourne Club. The kabbadi event was compered by Ranjith Khera who, with his witty one liners, had the spectators in splits.
The event also saw some pioneering work in the form of drug testing to prevent participants from using metabolic and performance-enhancing drugs to boost their chances of winning. Fortunately, none of the sportspersons tested by anti-doping kits were found positive.
The emcee of the event, Ranjith Khera told Indian Link, “The drug testing is being done to ensure fairness and also encourage local Australian people to participate in the sport.”
In his message to participants, Avinder Singh Gill, President of the Punjabi Cultural Association of Queensland, said, “The Brisbane Games would not have been possible without the ongoing support of the Queensland Police Service, the Brisbane City Council, all our major sponsors, volunteers, sub committees and the Brisbane Indian community for their endless hours spent to the bring the games together.”
The Lord Mayor of Brisbane Councillor Graham Quirk commended the Punjabi community for hosting such a popular event and said that the Games generate an exciting community spirit and promote the sharing of Sikh culture and social heritage with other cultures.
Dr Varinder Jeet, one of the spectators, said, “My nephews have come from Sydney to participate in soccer.” He also invited me to the lunch which was served piping hot by volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the three-day event.
Sports played in the tournament included kabaddi, soccer, cricket, touch football, netball, volleyball and hockey, across all age and gender categories. Men’s soccer proved to have the highest participation, including a Premier League and a Division 1 league along with Under 10, Under 13 and Under 15 soccer teams from all over Australia pitted against each other.
However, if one took spectator participation as the yard stick for popularity, the limelight went to Kabaddi finals and the tug of war. The Woolgoolga tug of war team emerged victorious in the finals. Incidentally, they were also the national champions in 2015.
The final day also witnessed a glittering prize distribution ceremony where the victorious athletes received their awards amidst thunderous ovation and cheering. There were cultural performances by Ranjit Bawa, Jenny Johal and Gagan Kokri at the St Laurence College’s auditorium, along with energetic Bhangra and Gidda performances.
The cultural fiesta ended in a spectacular dinner and dance night on the final day. By the time I made my way to the parking area I was already looking forward to the next edition which will be held in Adelaide in 2017. Watch out South Australia, here come the Sikhs!