London: The Reliance Foundation chairperson Nita Ambani, on Tuesday, elaborated on her vision for a peaceful, more fulfilled world, where sports can serve as a unifier across class, creed, race and gender divides.
"Let's turn our battlegrounds into playgrounds," said Ambani while giving the keynote address at the Sports Business Summit in London, where she also detailed India's aspirations of becoming a sporting powerhouse
"India is at a point of inflection. We are scaling new heights in every field, including sports," said Nita Ambani, also thanking the organisers for referring to her as the first lady of Indian sports.
Ambani, who is the first Indian woman to be elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), spoke on her desire of seeing sport as an intrinsic component of every child's education.
"Just let them play a sport, any sport, it's a great teacher, a magical equaliser."
"In a young country like India, where the aspirations are so audacious, the adrenaline high, and the appetite to achieve so strong, that with the proper guidance, we can script the biggest success stories the world of sports has ever seen."
From talking about how her tryst with sports began as an owner of the IPL franchise Mumbai Indians where she learned the nuances of cricket, to how sports can become an important vehicle in bridging social, economical and gender divides, Ambani spoke of her foundation's several initiatives, including the Education and Sports for all (ESA) program and the Young Champs program.
While talking about her IPL franchise Mumbai Indians, Ambani cited the examples of Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya as some of the greatest finds of her team, who've made it big in cricket through sheer perseverance and hard work.
"I think Bumrah and Pandya just prove that sport is purely meritocratic where talent is always rewarded, despite financial hardships and societal barriers."
Ambani credited the renaissance of Indian football to the Indian Super League (ISL) which was launched in 2014. "ISL has been a gamechanger as now, parents can see football as a viable career option," said Ambani.
"The league itself has emerged as the third most-watched football league in terms of viewership in India with 160 million television viewers. Further, since the coming of the ISL, the Indian national football team's ranking has shot up from 173 to 96."
For a country to make a mark as a sporting powerhouse, governmental support becomes crucial. Thus, Ambani lauded the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his initiatives meant to inculcate a sporting culture among the masses, such as the Khelo India and Fit India movements.
She further cited Indian athletes' medal haul of more than 200 medals in international sporting competitions in the month of July alone, of which, most were won by women. She also mentioned sprinter Hima Das, who picked up five gold medals across track events in Europe, in a span of just 20 days.
"There has never been an environment more conducive for sports' various stakeholders in India where our appetite for sports consumption has skyrocketed. For instance, the Cricket World Cup final this year had 15 million TV viewers in England. In India, that figure reads 180 million. One can only imagine what the figure would have been had India been in the final," she quipped.
Summing up her speech, Ambani detailed her vision for sports in India, expressing her desire to see 'right to sport' being included as a fundamental right in the Indian constitution.
She went on to list her dreams for India to emerge as a sporting powerhouse, the foremost of which was for the country to host the biggest sporting competitions in the world. "Just four days ago, the Reliance Foundation brought the NBA to India. It is my dream to see India host the Olympics and FIFA World Cup."
"I believe that the power of sports as a promoter of peace is the biggest weapon that our civilization has."
"Let us replace warfare, with sportsmanship," she signed off.
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