Sportstar hosted the first-ever National Sports Conclave on Monday in New Delhi, where a host of speakers from different sports disciplines identified vexing issues in different disciplines and ways to better the playing conditions.
The occasion was graced by Nikhat Zareen, who won her second World Boxing Championships gold on Sunday. Nikhat said, “I am mentally very strong to tackle all challenges that come my way. My aim is to win an Olympic medal for my country. After Paris Olympics, I don’t know if I will continue boxing. I don’t want any regrets after Paris. I am working hard for Paris. It’s my ultimate dream.”
Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs & Sports, delivered the keynote address on ‘Khelo India – Achieving excellence in sports’. “In the past 18 months, we have launched Khelo India leagues for women across sports and have seen tremendous success. I think the WPL (Women’s Premier League) 2023 was extremely successful. It has opened the gates for many organisations that might be thinking about whether to start a league for women or not. There are a lot of takers for women athletes in the country,” Thakur said.
Sandip Pradhan, DG, Sports Authority of India, gave the lowdown on the plan for the 2024 Paris Olympics. “The difference between the earlier TOPS and this TOPS is that we have involved a lot of athletes – champion athletes. So, we are taking the experience along with us because they have suffered and not got timely support. Instead of us deciding everything, we are requiring the ex-champion athletes and those who are in the committees to interact with the federations and the stakeholders to decide the roadmap of India’s journey,” he said.
Meanwhile, weightlifter and Olympic silver medallist Mirabai Chanu, who joined the session virtually, threw light on the challenges of nurturing a sporting career in Manipur. She highlighted the lack of state-of-the-art infrastructures and attributed the success of athletes there to their own volition.
In another panel discussion on The power of sports and its superstars in brand building, Harbhajan Singh, the former India cricketer, praised the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the financial security it has provided to all stakeholders of the game. “A lot of things have changed since my early playing days. Opportunities are coming after our playing careers and IPL has brought on much of that,” she said. “A lot of us have work because of it [IPL] at multiple levels and in many roles. Pehle jaise nahin hai, ki if you retire, pata nahin banda kahan gaya (It’s not like the old days when you didn’t know about a player’s whereabouts once he retired).”
Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla, who was featured in a discussion on sports federations, revealed how he changed the functioning of the athletics federation by ushering in a corporate culture that focussed on two things: “first, create an ecosystem, and focus on grassroots on the one hand and elite on the other. The reason being if you don’t have elite athletes, you don’t have somebody to look up to, and you’re not going to get athletes at the grassroots level.
“Athletics has 50 events. We can’t go after all of them. So, we shortlisted events and then we brought in foreign coaches. The reason for bringing foreign coaches was that their knowledge of sports science, sports medicine, etc. is far better than a lot of our coaches because a lot of our coaches don’t have a science background.”
There was also an invigorating session on ‘Balancing on and off-field success in sports leagues’, involving Vita Dani (Co-Owner, Chennaiyin FC; Chairperson, Ultimate Table Tennis), Anupam Goswami (League Commissioner, PKL), Jose Antonio Cachaza Pereiro (Managing Director, LaLiga India) and Joy Bhattacharjya (CEO, PVL).
In a separate chat on the significance of Public-Private partnership for sports development, Manisha Malhotra (Head - Sports Excellence and Scouting, JSW Sports Pvt Ltd) said, “Everyone wants a medal very quickly and that’s very hard to get, so we need corporates who have a long-term vision to stick it out. We’re not selling the thought of a medal, but we focus on the journey of an athlete.”
Vineel Krishna, secretary of Sports & Youth Services, offered a different perspective. “Sports is a costly affair and it is going to take a lot of money to prepare talent of a high level, we can’t expect the corporates to fund on such a large scale. That kind of money has to come from the government and they have to increase the amount of funding that goes into sports, that is what we have done. Five years back, our budget was Rs 150 crore, now it is Rs 1500 crore,” he said.
There was an interesting conversation on harnessing the potential of sports for social development where, Mallika Nadda, chairperson Special Olympics Bharat, spoke about the challenges of Special Olympics. “It is more difficult than any other Olympics. Mentally these children are not stable, so handling them and training them for a world games is a very huge task and this is what our coaches and our team have been doing and now we have 15 lakh special atheltes.”
Other attendees included Deepa Malik (President, PCI), Rahul Bose (President, Indian Rugby Football Union) and Desh Gaurav Sekhri (Co-Founder, Sports, and Society Accelerator).
The Conclave was held in association with Hero We Care, a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, ONGC, Jain University, Vajiram & Ravi, Institute for IAS Examination, Cric HQ, Shiv-Naresh and News X.