Speaking from the historic ramparts of the Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praise on India's Olympians and urged the nation to "give them a big round of applause for their achievements."
In his 88-minute address, the Prime Minister made a pointed reference to the way the Olympics have impacted thinking within the country. "It is a major turning point for our country," he said. "In this decade we have to speed up the drive to bring talent, technology and professionalism into sports in the country."
Drawing the nation's attention to the Olympians present in the audience, the Prime Minister said, "The athletes who have made us proud at the Tokyo Olympics are here among us today. I urge the nation to applaud their achievement today. They have not only won our hearts but also inspired future generations."
He also highlighted the achievements of Indian women athletes when he announced that Sainik Schools, for the first time in their history, will be opened up for girls. "It is a matter of pride that India's daughters are performing splendidly, be it in Board exams or the Olympics," the PM declared.
Emphasising the importance of sports in the school curriculum, he said: "There was a time when sports were not considered to be a part of the mainstream. Parents used to say to children that they would spoil their life if they kept playing. But today, awareness about the importance of sports and fitness is widespread all over the country. We have experienced it in the Olympics this time."
As many as 240 Olympians, including gold medallist Neeraj Chopra and silver medallist Mirabai Chanu, the men's and women's hockey teams, their support staff, and officials of the Sports Authority of India were present to listen to the Prime MInister.
On his way out of the Red Fort, the Prime Minister's cavalcade stopped at the enclosure reserved for the Olympians and he walked around waving at them. In view of the Covid protocols, the sportspersons remained seated.
The athletes surely were excited and shared pictures from the Red Fort on social media platforms as well. Olympian shooter Sanjeev Rajpoot took to Twitter to express his feelings from Red Fort. "Nothing comes close to the feeling of representing your country. Saluting the sacrifices and valour of our freedom fighters! Happy Independence Day. Jai Hind."