Will Sports Ministry reap rewards for its wide-ranging initiatives?

Having laid a strong foundation, the Sports Ministry would be eyeing a best ever haul of medals from the Indian contingent in the Rio Games.

Much focus was directed to the successful hosting of the South Asian Games in February.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Understanding its role to provide a broader base to sports and support elite athletes to excel at the international level, the Union Sports Ministry has listed its initiatives, taken during the last two years, aimed towards achieving the objective, along with the resolve to progress further.

The drive to spend about Rs. 200 crore in Jammu and Kashmir to upgrade and build sports facilities, keeping in mind the predominant winter conditions; the proposal to set up a National Sports University in an area of about 336 acres in Manipur; enhancement of diet and supplement assistance to athletes in national camps; considerable focus on elite athletes to help them win medals in the Olympics in 2016 and 2020; the conduct of the SAF Games in Guwahati and Shillong, in which hockey turf and squash courts were set up in record time, as well as allowing free television feed to all participant countries, have merited mention in the list of achievements of the Sports Ministry.

Quite significantly, the enhancement of government assistance to the tune of Rs. 10 lakh for holding a national subjunior championship, Rs. seven lakh for junior and Rs. five lakh for senior championships, apart from an assistance of Rs. 25 lakh for holding 'prestigious tournaments’ in India, and Rs. 30 lakh for hosting international tournaments, have helped the national federations breathe a lot easier.

Air travel to a variety of players, medical and life insurance, enhanced salary to the tune of about Rs.150,000 for a chief coach and allowance of about Rs.10 lakh for national federations to buy equipment, are commendable. The cash awards for winning medals in various international competitions including Olympics and World Championships have also been enhanced, even though Rs.75 lakh for an Olympic gold when we have only one individual gold medallist so far, may not be that attractive.

Fulfilling basic needs

The paralympic medals have also been equated with regular medals for cash awards in the Paralympic Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. The National Federations have also been advised to make quality arrangements for the athletes in terms of various basic needs. Emphasis has also been placed on the National School Games and University sports and to have yoga in the priority list.

With the Union Sports Ministry operating in full swing along with various other stake-holders, the fact that Indian sportspersons bagged 188 gold, 90 silver and 30 bronze medals, in the South Asian Games this year has been viewed with considerable satisfaction, in the light of India having won only 90 gold medals in the previous edition in Dhaka.

The government took care of the cost of fielding the Indian contingent of about 200-odd sportspersons and 50-odd officials in the Special World Olympics in Los Angeles in July-August 2015. The athletes responded by winning 173 medals, including 47 gold. The team finished third behind US and China.

Viewing the remarkable achievements of the Indian women in the world of sports, the Sports Ministry has noted with pride the efforts of Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza in the arena of badminton and tennis respectively. Saina reached the final of the All-England Championship and become No.1 in the world, while Sania has won three Grand Slam titles on the trot with Martina Hingis and has been the world No.1 doubles player for about a year now.

Having laid a strong foundation, the Sports Ministry would be eyeing a best ever haul of medals from the Indian contingent in the Rio Games.

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