Bhubaneswar, Jan 19 (PTI) Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday exhorted startups and entrepreneurs to invest in sports as the state is promoting the sector in a big way.

Patnaik was addressing the valedictory ceremony of SPORT IT 2020, touted as India's first sports and innovation festival. The event, organised by Xavier Emlyon Business School (XEBS) and the state government's sports and youth services department, came to an end here on Sunday.

"With SPORT IT 2020, we want to create an inclusive platform that would not only celebrate sports innovation and entrepreneurship but also involve sports persons, startups, high performance centres and students in a significant way.

"It will encourage the participants from the sports fraternity to meet, exchange knowledge and learn from one another," he said.

Welcoming sports entrepreneurs, investors and students from across India and abroad, the chief minister said it was a matter of happiness that Odisha has been conferred with Sports-Star Ace Award for the consecutive second year as the Best State for Sports Promotion in the entire country.

"I am sure the festival will enhance the outcome of our efforts to bring innovation to sports and promote a sporting culture among the youth," he said.

The Odisha government has also invited the startup entrepreneurs who participated in the event for an interaction for future association.

On the occasion, the chief minister handed over the Best Startup Award to Funngage, a curated and integrated sports platform from Delhi, which received a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh as announced by Emlyon Business School, France.

Similarly, he also felicitated the team who won the Hackathon contest that included tennis player Chinmay Pradhan, para athlete Dileshwar Rao, Programme Manager, Naval Tata Hockey Academy, Debashis Nayak, basketball coach Rajesh Singh and professor sports Sovan Patnaik.

They would be flying to Lyon in September to attend the biggest sports innovation festival in Europe, Sports Unlimitech.

All 12 startups who participated in the sports and innovation festival were also felicitated by state industries minister Dibya Shankar Mishra and sports minister Tushar Kanti Behera.

While Mishra appreciated the unique concept of sports, innovation and entrepreneurship, Behera said the government's endeavours will take sports development to new heights in Odisha.

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