Anurag Thakur: With all-round help, we will be in a position to do better at Paris 2024

At Sportstar's first-ever North-East Conclave in Guwahati, India's Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said the government expected more medals from rifle shooting, wrestling and boxing at the Tokyo Games.

India's Sports Minister Anurag Thakur hopes for better show from the Olympians at Paris 2024.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Anurag Thakur, India's Sports Minister, lauded North East's efforts to better the sports ecosystem in the region. "The fact that we have a sports conclave for North-East speaks a lot about the progress of these states in sports. It is a testament to the emergence of sporting excellence in NE states," Thakur said during his keynote address at Sportstar's first-ever North-East Sports Conclave in Guwahati on Friday.

Thakur heaped praise on Tokyo Olympic medallists Lovlina Borgohain (bronze) and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (silver).

"Of the six individual medals won by India at the 2020 Olympics- two were won by Mirabai Chanu and Lovlina Borgohain. With their performances, they have put North-East not just on the Indian map but on the global map," Thakur said.

Watch the full Conclave here:

 

"After our performance at Rio 2016, we set up a dedicated Olympic cell to focus on excellence. Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) was started in 2016, wherein all sorts of supports have been taken care of by the central government. For example, the government facilitated Mirabai and her support staff's travel to the USA for training before Covid. She was able to beat the travel ban and earned us a medal eventually. Likewise, Neeraj was able to compete in Sweden and Portugal before the Olympics," he added.

Thakur also revealed that the government is in the process of setting up an infrastructure dashboard "where we have all information about sporting infrastructure in each district. Geo-tagging of sporting infrastructure will allow governments to spend judiciously and do targetted projects in under-served areas."

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Asked how he planned on introducing professionalism to the day-to-day workings of state sports federations, Thakur said, "I would like to take a friendly approach - just handhold where they need central government's help. Make them realise that if they perform well, our sports will do well. It is the national sports federations and state associations who have to pick players and organise events."

About whether the Tokyo 2020 medals tally met his expectations, Thakur said, "I think we expected a double-digit tally, we expected more medals from rifle shooting, wrestling and boxing. But I am sure with all-round help, we will be in a position to do better at Paris 2024."

Thakur also touched upon the subject of facilitating travel for athletes from North-East so that they do not miss out on quality training and competitive events in different parts of the country. "We've already subsidised rail fare, but it takes more travel time to reach the hill states and the North-East.. We can look at increasing budgets for states, but the states should also come forward.

"Sports is a state subject ultimately. Those who sit in the chair should contribute more revenue for the game, that's why they're administrators," he said.

Thakur revealed that the government is establishing 1000 Khelo India Centres (KIC) in partnership with the state governments across the country to ensure the availability of grassroot-level sports infrastructure across the country. "Each Khelo India Centre will be entrusted with one sports discipline. We are also revamping the existing sporting facilities in the states which will be known as the Khelo India Sports Centre of Excellence (KISCE). The KISCEs aim to provide athletes with world-class specialised training," he said.

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