LAHORE, Nov 7: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday opened the International Punjab Youth Festival at a colourful ceremony at the National Hockey Stadium.

Some national teams and some club level teams from 26 countries are part of the festival which will continue till Nov 15. Touch-ball, fist-ball, rugby, baseball besides football and athletics are part of the festival.

Earlier, the Sports Board Punjab claimed that 41 countries would be participating but later it said 26 nations were being represented here. All foreign teams have been paid for tickets and five-star accommodation.

The organisers claim the clubs and national teams from England, Indian Punjab, South Korea, Palestine, New Zealand, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and many other countries are taking part.

Indian Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also attended the opening ceremony.

Shahbaz Sharif said cricket and hockey competitions would be held after every two years on a reciprocal basis to strengthen the friendship between two Punjabs. He said the Punjab Assembly team would also play cricket match against the Indian PA team in near future.

He said both countries should ignore the miseries of the past for a better future. He said the European countries had been fighting against each other for decades but now they had overcome their issues and emerged as most developed countries of the world.

Sukhbir was delighted over his visit to Lahore and said he could not forget the love the Lahorites had given to him. He said both Punjabs could not live without each other and they should further come closer in all spheres. He said holding of such festival was a good step to channelise the youth’s potential towards healthy activities.

He said the Indian Punjab would stage third World Kabaddi Cup at Bathinda on Dec 15 this year and Shahbaz would be the chief guest.

Pakistan and Indian Punjabs would also compete separately in hockey, kabaddi, tug-of-war and wrestling. Moreover, in ‘Dosti Cup’, Deaf and Dumb teams of India and Pakistan would clash in cricket, kabaddi, wrestling, badminton, table tennis and chess.

Though the sports board made ample arrangements, half of the stadium remained empty.

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