One of the positive developments in the country is that sports is recognised as a part of education. “The new education policy of India is also going to have sports as a part of education and not as extracurricular activities,” said Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju. Plans are afoot to establish a national sports education board and an Olympic museum to boost sports culture in India. Though the new policy is expected to bring hope and enthusiasm to the sports sector, it will take long, enduring efforts to repair the damage caused by the long decades of neglect. In 120 years of the modern Olympic Games, India has won only nine gold, seven silver and 12 bronze medals. India won zero medals in six editions, and just a single one in each of 13 Olympics. In the last three Olympic Games, our medals tally has improved to 11, which includes one gold and three silvers. This does not speak well of our health, strength, stamina, discipline, focus and infrastructure.
India is a huge country with 1.35 billion people who have different physical builds that fit a wide range of sporting activities. There is need for a dedicated effort to classify sportsmen according to their natural body type, as developed nations do. India is a multicultural country where people of different height, strength and stamina are found in different geographical locations. There are abundant natural talents in the country who wither in the bud due to the lack of infrastructure, transparency in the selection process, guidance, encouragement, poverty, bureaucratic ignorance and apathy, among other reasons.
Inclusive opportunities continue to elude sportspersons. For example, India has won many international championships in badminton and tennis. But these sports cover only a miniscule percentage of people in cities who can afford to play racquet sports. Inclusive opportunities, the exclusion of non-performing players, a transparent selection process and dedicated coaching will add to India’s medal tally in badminton and tennis. “I used to spend ₹40,000 per month on my daughter who played tennis in the under-14 category. Without sponsorship, it is difficult to continue in this game,” says Venu from Hyderabad who was a national athlete. “Gone are the days when coaches worked selflessly and dedicatedly to groom talent. Now everybody is only after money,” he adds.
India should manufacture sports equipment in the country at a lower cost and provide equipment to sportspersons at subsidised rates. Focus could be on sports such as wrestling, judo, hockey, volleyball, basketball, boxing, shot put, archery, javelin, high jump, long jump, swimming, etc., which are not too expensive to pursue as racquet sports. It is time to promote sports for the nation’s glory.
The reader is from Hyderabad.
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