The sight of our Prime Minister providing churma to Neeraj Chopra, ice cream to P V Sindhu, laughing with Bajrang Punia, telling Ravi Dahiya to snort extra and listening to the experiences of Mirabai Chanu introduced a smile to each Indian’s face. What was equally encouraging was that he hung out with each athlete who took half in Tokyo Olympics. The subsequent day, he interacted with the Paralympic contingent, discussing their inspiring life journeys.
These gestures point out a special aspect to Narendra Modi — an individual who’s captivated with sports activities and keen to go the additional mile for India’s athletes. Earlier than the Tokyo Video games started, PM Modi held an in depth overview assembly to take inventory of our preparedness.
Those that have seen PM Modi carefully can vouch for the fervour he has in the direction of supporting a tradition of sports activities and video games among the many youth. As CM of Gujarat, he started the Khel Mahakumbh initiative, which boosted grassroots degree sports activities participation in a state that’s not traditionally identified for sporting excellence. There’s additionally a way in how he has supported sports activities and sportspersons, which might make me to argue that he’s India’s at first “Sportsperson’s Prime Minister”.
A number of days in the past, a 2013 video went viral. In that video, Modi was addressing a bunch of school college students in Pune, the place he lamented that India has a big and gifted inhabitants in addition to a historical past of sporting excellence, however in Olympics after Olympics, we now have struggled to boost our medal rely. He mentioned that there is no such thing as a cause a nation like ours ought to stay disadvantaged of Olympic success. However, in keeping with him, the difficulty was not the gamers however our incapacity to create the suitable supporting environment. The ladies’s and males’s hockey groups have gone on file saying that the PM’s telephone calls after their defeats performed a key function in boosting their morale. In 2019, when Neeraj Chopra suffered an harm, PM Modi wished him a speedy restoration, which was extensively appreciated.
In terms of sports activities, the PM has understood the basis of the issue — that sports activities generate a lot curiosity however relating to incentives and participation, there’s a broad hole. There was each truth and optimism when he remarked after assembly the Olympic winners — “seeing the current successes in sports activities, I’m assured there can be a shift in parental perspective in the direction of sports activities.” When mother and father see India’s medal rely rising, one hopes they are going to be extra open to their youngsters pursuing sports activities. However, extra importantly, once they see all arms of the federal government, and the company sector assist our gamers, they are going to realise that sports activities makes for a pretty and honourable profession.
Amongst the varied methods we will improve India’s sporting success is by taking a look at encouraging our states in the direction of a “One State, One Sport” outlook: They’ll prioritise one recreation or promote a number of (whereas not ignoring others) primarily based on the out there expertise pool, pure curiosity, weather conditions and out there infrastructure. This may carry a focussed method but in addition permit for optimum utilisation of current assets within the state.
Additional, we should additionally get on board company India to undertake “One Sport, One Company”. The world over, corporates are on the forefront of extending assist to budding expertise, constructing leagues, enhancing the fan expertise, advertising and marketing in addition to merchandising to reinforce the monetary kitty of gamers. The success of corporates with cricket over time is a working example. Moreover, the sponsorship sample has transitioned from FMCG manufacturers to new FinTech unicorns. This is usually a win-win for gamers, corporates and the sport itself.
One other vital side is to construct a grassroots sporting tradition. For this, it’s crucial to increase the calendar for varied video games on the native, state and nationwide ranges. India wants regional leagues in each sport that may present a possibility for younger athletes to hone their expertise all year long at varied ranges, in addition to improve the sports activities ecosystem and infrastructure within the nation. I additionally consider our college system may be reworked into an oasis for Olympic excellence.
One of many issues that has helped Indian sports activities is the emphasis on high quality and world requirements. The standard route was bureaucratic and tiresome; this has modified within the Modi authorities, the place even the PM prefers to obtain suggestions straight from the gamers. Whereas assembly the Tokyo 2020 contingent, he requested them to maintain sharing their views on methods to strengthen sporting infrastructure. Be it Mirabai or Mary Kom, the PM has personally ensured they obtained the very best remedy for his or her accidents.
One other difficulty impacting Indian sports activities is (paradoxically) the rise of contemporary expertise. PM Modi has addressed this in his guide, Examination Warriors and in Pariksha Pe Charcha townhall programmes. He talked about giving as a lot significance to the enjoying area as to the play station. Modi has not dismissed the arrival of contemporary expertise. He has sought a wholesome stability the place the human component of sports activities — teamwork, togetherness — is maintained. Additional, the Nationwide Schooling Coverage additionally consists of mechanisms that may make sports activities schooling a pretty possibility. Within the years to return, Manipur will get India’s first sports activities college, which can be a boon to athletes and harness the wealthy sporting legacy within the Northeast.
Tokyo 2020 was an Olympics of many firsts for India. We gained our first gold in athletics, the hockey crew did wonders and there have been successes in different sports activities comparable to discus throw, golf, fencing, and so on. The Goal Olympic Podium Scheme, Khelo India and the Match India Marketing campaign have laid the foundations for better success. New India has fireplace in its stomach. Our sportspersons have the complete assist of the federal government and the PM of their quest for sporting excellence.
This column first appeared within the print version on August 21, 2021 beneath the title ‘Empowering the gamers’. The author is Union Minister for I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports activities.