"“I can proudly say that we as a nation are on the right path to becoming a sporting powerhouse.”" - Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, IOA Chief.
The statement was made in 2018 when India stood third in the medals tally at the 21st Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia. As much as we’d like to believe our IOA chief, the reality seems a bit diffrent.
Both the BJP and the Congress recently rolled out their manifestos for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and it isn’t much encouraging to see sports not being talked about at length.
The BJP on one hand, talked just about providing adequate resources under 'Khelo India' scheme and giving special attention to tribals and women. Congress, too, din’t have much to talk about. Both the parties didn’t even bother to devote one full page to the topic.
The Story So Far
As of 2019-20, the Budget allocated to sports in India is Rs 2,216.92 crore. It is unfortunate to know that this budget is less than the net worth of the Indian Premier League which stands at Rs 34,000 crore.
India is constantly criticised for not performing at the Olympics. The country has participated in 24 Olympics and won just 28 medals. China started taking part 52 years later and has 546 medals. India stood at the 50th place at the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics, 55th in 2012 London summer Olympics, and 67th at 2016 Rio summer Olympics.
What is it?
Do Indian’s just don’t have the skill and talent to perform at the highest level?
Or is it something to do with the kind of environment and infrastructure that these athletes are provided with?
First individual Olympic gold winner for India, Abhinav Bindra, had something to say about it in a tweet back in 2016.
Each medal costs the UK £5.5 million. That's the sort of investment needed. Let's not expect much until we put systems in place at home.— Abhinav Bindra OLY (@Abhinav_Bindra) August 16, 2016
Fast forward to 2019, and this tweet still holds its significance. India roughly spends one fourth of what the UK spends on sports and this is when India is 13 times bigger than the UK. 62.5% of India’s population is between 15 and 59 years. This is the time when the ruling establishment should spend the highest amount on sports to yield the benefits of a favourable demographic dividend.
The Current Scenario
India may be divided in terms of religion, but if there is one thing that unites us all, it is the game of cricket. While it’s perfectly fine to love one game, it is unfortunate to ignore all the others.
While leagues such as Indian Super League, Pro Kabbadi League, Premier Badminton League have been successful in creating a certain audience, the difference still remains huge. Nonetheless, it is a change in the right direction.
What about Archery, Athletics, Basketball, Boxing, Gymnastics, Judo, Kho-Kho, Shooting, Swimming, Volleyball and Weightlifting.
These sports hold Olympic importance and they are almost nowhere to be found. Not on our televisions and certainly not in our discussions.
Khelo India was launched by the government in a bid to identify young talents, and provide them with proper infrastructure to grow in. However, only major sports were covered throughout. The rest of them were covered only at the final stages.
When you launch a scheme for the whole country, you involve every possible group in it. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Khelo India. The para-athletes have been completely ignored.
If India is to really become a sporting powerhouse, these issues needs to be addressed, and fast. Otherwise the only things we’ll see changing are the authorities and their new (para-phrased) manifestos.
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