Alappuzha (Kerala), Aug 31: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday flagged off the first edition of the Champions Boat League (CBL) when the famed Nehru Trophy Boat Race was held here at the Punamada lake.
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Present on the occasion was cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, and with this event, the country got its first such water sport on the lines of the IPL cricket tournament.
Thousands of people witnessed the enchanting boat race which was the 67th edition of the Nehru Trophy which the Pallathuruthi Boat Club won and also won the first race of the maiden CBL.
Nine CBL snake-boats took part in the event and the CBL features 12 rounds of races slated at various other places till November 23.
Vijayan hailed the pioneering boat league as an event that reinforces the spirit of unity among people.
"True, you compete with each other with your boats. But at the end of the day, it is all about harmonious relationship between us human beings," said Vijayan.
Tendulkar said the CBL marks the turn of a new leaf in the history of Kerala's boat-races.
"I have led teams where the players' number totals 16, while it is around 100 in a boat race! That requires tremendous understanding between the members and skills of coordination from the part of the captain," said Tendulkar.
Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran hailed the CBL as an eminent product that will help the state brighten its four months of off-season from June marked by monsoon rains.
"Tourism provides Kerala with 10 per cent of its GDP. We plan to raise the sector's contribution to 13 per cent in a couple of years," said Surendran.
Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Isaac Thomas noted that three years have gone into the conception of the CBL for the boat league to eventually roll out.
"The government is sure this championship will earn international attention," said Issac.
The top CBL winner of every leg is entitled to Rs 5 lakh, followed by Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh. While all participants are entitled to a bonus prize of Rs 4 lakh per match, the three-month boat league has prize monies totalling Rs 5.9 crore that ranks CBL among India's fourth-highest paid across all sports.