LAHORE - The neighborhood and village level of the Punjab Youth Festival 2014 saw record participation of over 1.2 million people competing in various sports and general category competitions throughout the province.

Provincial minister for sports, education and youth affairs Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan revealed the figures in a press conference held here at the Sports Board Punjab (SBP) after the conclusion of the first level of the festival. SBP DG Usman Anwar was also present there.

As the festival approaches into it second Union Council level since it started on December 23, more records are likely to be broken and new to be made. The opening level record of participation is double than the previous year’s festival.

The participation in the nine divisions of Punjab including Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan was recorded as 1,093,487 and out of these mass contestants, 471,596 were emerged as winners. Bahawalpur remained active of all the divisions in participation where 28,631 people of all walks of life figured in seven sports and two general categories while the provincial metropolis had the participation of 23,426 players.

The minister said that the events would be the talent hunt for the participation in the international events. “Through the PYF, Pakistani youth will prove that they are not less than any nation’s youth.” He added that at the council level, 30 sporting event would be competed throughout the province as each coming day would be the success of the PYF.

He said that Sports Endowment Fund (SEP) would facilitate the veterans and needy sportsmen. “The vision of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Punjab CM Mian Shahbaz Sharif is to bring the youth to the grounds for the healthy activities rather than indulging in false activities.”

To a query regarding World XI cricket match to be played during the festival, he said: “Top cricketers of the world will be invited to take part in the cricket match that will be staged during the PYF.”

To another query, Mashood replied: “We are ready to help with all sports federations and associations as we have organised mega events of rugby, football and baseball with their cooperation and we will keep in touch with them to assist them in staging such big events in future too. We all must set aside all our egos and work for the promotion and betterment of sports at national and international level.”

To a question regarding Iqbal Park Sports Complex, he replied: “It was decided in the meeting that total area of the complex would be restored properly.”

He stated that Basant, which had been made as the part of the PYF,would be held in Changa Manga. “The revenue can be generated through the Basant Festival and it has been made essential to abide by the laws being made for the event. The violators will be dealt with iron-handedly,” he added.