Sportstar West Sports Conclave 2022: Sporting legacy has the potential to impact generations, says Aparna Popat

Sportstar’s West Sports Conclave in Ahmedabad brought together top sportspersons and sport industry experts under one roof for a series of carefully-curated conversations on revolutionising the sports ecosystem in western India.

Aparna Popat at Sportstar’s West Sports Conclave.

Aparna Popat at Sportstar’s West Sports Conclave. | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

Sportstar’s West Sports Conclave in Ahmedabad brought together top sportspersons and sport industry experts under one roof for a series of carefully-curated conversations on revolutionising the sports ecosystem in western India.

Three-time Commonwealth Games medallist Aparna Popat said sport has the power to build a legacy that has the potential to live on and have an impact on the upcoming generations.

Talking at the Sportstar West Sports Conclave in Ahmedabad on Saturday, she said, “It is not about your achievements at the moment, but it has the potential to leave an impact on a generation for a very long time. Legacy can be a personal legacy and it can also be of an institution.”

“I started playing when I was 8, and my first national championship was at 11. People used to tell me that if I became the Maharashtra state champion., I would become the National Champion. That was the legacy of the state where I grew up... The competition should not be on how many medals have athletes won, but it should be rather on how much a state invested in the development of its athletes.”

M. M. Somaya, a gold medallist at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the former captain of the Indian hockey team explained the importance of the hierarchy of legacy in sports.

“When I was growing up, Mumbai had a very robust ecosystem for hockey. We had about 100 clubs which were semi-professional. People who excelled in these three sectors excelled at several levels - Navy, Services, Railways and so on. I was fortunate to come through the system,” he said.

“One is the performance at the international level. We grew up on the stories of the 1948 hockey team. We grew up with stories of footballers from Goa and basketball players from Rajasthan.

“The second level would be at the national level. We have seen Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh excel recently in the Khelo India Games. I see Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat too... many of the states have done very well.

“The third level is inclusiveness. Seventy per cent of India lives in the rural belt and what facilities you provide for them is the infrastructure you reap. A lot of potential will come from the rural belts. For example, Sundargarh district in Odisha is planning 17 astroturfs for the development of hockey,” he added.

Somaya also went on to explain how scientific training has been the success mantra of athletes, the most prominent example being 3000m Steeplechase specialist Avinash Sable.

“(Sable put up) one of the best performances by an Indian athlete; beat Kenyans at their own game. The root of his success has been scientific training and he has got it through the Army Institute in Pune, something even the hockey team has taken advantage of. That is important for the development of sports.”

Narhari Amin, Rajya Sabha Member and veteran sports administrator, said, “In 1993 when I took the responsibility of the GCA, it had an 11-crore liability. There were litigations in the High Court and the Supreme Court, and the scene for cricket in Gujarat was almost over. But when I resigned from the post in 2009, the GCA had a surplus of over 50 crores.”

“When I took over the reins at GCA, the state of the Motera Stadium was such that we had to spend lakhs on maintaining the venue alone. Aamir Khan’s Sarfarosh was released in 1999. I arranged for a charity show at Ahmedabad’s Drive-In Cinema and collected Rs 35 lakhs from there. Through advertisement money, we took the amount to Rs 65 lakhs (sic). We then used it to settle dues with the banks,” he continued.

The Conclave is being held in association with Hero We Care, a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management, Indian Oil, Shiv Naresh, Stag International, SBI and LIC. It can be followed live on sportstar.thehindu.com.

The first edition of the Sportstar Sports Conclave was held in Kerala in 2021. Since then, Guwahati, Chennai and Lucknow have also hosted the event.

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