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Making India the Next Big Sports Powerhouse

23 Nov 2021

The unprecedented performance by India’s sportspersons at this year’s Olympics games has ushered in a sports revolution in India. On 6th August this year, for the first time, hockey beat cricket in Google searches in India. A day after Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal, the most googled phrase in India was ‘javelin coach near me.’ Clearly, the sports space in India is undergoing a positive transformation after the multiple wins in Olympics and Paralympics.

Names like Mirabai Chanu, PV Sindhu, Kamalpreet Kaur, Neeraj Chopra, Ravi Dahiya, Lovlina Borgohain and Bajrang Punia, among others, have now become synonyms for role models in India. Sports academies for tennis, badminton, boxing etc. have mushroomed all over the country in the last few months and are being seen as the new dream-fulfilling centres by many youngsters.

In 2019, the Government made a start with Khelo India, the national flagship programme for development of sports. The programme, launched with an intention to revive India’s then waning sports culture, now hopes to establish India as a great sporting nation. Through initiatives at the grassroot level, Khelo India is building a strong framework for all sports, as it aims to transform India into a global sporting powerhouse in the next few years and the results are already visible.

The Government plans to create a dashboard with data related to sports infrastructure for districts and blocks. It also plans to organize talent hunt programmes for various sports to identify and train youngsters at an early stage. The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has requested State Governments to organize more events and competitions, so that athletes get exposure at district, zone, state and national level.

To support the Central Government’s efforts, various State Governments have also taken steps in this direction. In fact, on 20th September, Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports virtually met Sports Ministers from several states and union territories to discuss strategies to prepare athletes for future international sports meets.

When it comes to bolstering sports in India, a lot can be done by corporates through their CSR initiatives. While most companies prefer to invest their CSR funds in education, women empowerment, health and hygiene, not many organizations look at development programmes for promoting sports as a CSR option. There is a need for a renewed CSR approach for promoting sports in India. Identifying talent and nurturing it by giving youngsters the right environment to train is one area that is most neglected, and interventions by the industry can be of great assistance here.

Several athletes are forced to drop out of international championships due to financial constraints. Corporate sponsorship can be a gamechanger for such athletes and corporates can look at creating funds which can be utilized to enable such players – who have the talent but lack the means – to participate in national and international events. Creating sports infrastructure, investing in sports equipment, providing medical facilities for sportspersons, arranging for mentoring and coaching are some other areas where Indian corporates can do their bit in promoting sports in the country.

Several Government entities such as Indian Railways and BSNL offer jobs based on sports quota and this model can be adopted by other companies to encourage participation. This will also serve as a huge incentive to youth who don’t see a long-term career in sports. For India to be the next big sports powerhouse, Government and Industry need to work in tandem to create, develop and sustain a sports ecosystem that is viable for all strata of the society.  

In the last few years, Indian organizations have invested in creating sports facilities for youth from smaller cities and rural areas, but the impact will be amplified if these initiatives are mapped and implemented in a collaborative manner. There is an urgent need for joint effort by State Governments, Central Government, Industry, educational institutes as well as sports bodies/federations to prepare athletes as well as to create a more conducive infrastructure.