Disappointed with India’s performance at the Olympics, government’s think-tank Niti Aayog has devised an ambitious short-term and medium-to-long term action plan to help India achieve 50 medals in 2024 summer Olympics. Here are a few recommendations:
The agency has recommended that 10 sports with high winning potential as well as those in which India has won medals in the past should be identified. The action play, it says, should include targets for the four-year cycle along with training, coaching and drug testing schedules for all players of each sport. Review every four years. The commission has cited examples of countries like Kenya and Jamaica, who ‘participate in only two Olympics sports but have managed to get a medal tally of 100 and 78 respectively.’
Players, it has been recommended, should be divided in three categories. Group A should include athletes who are ranked in the top 50 of their discipline at the ‘Olympics and/or other international level sports events such as the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Paralympic Games, etc.’ Group B would be ‘young sportspersons’ ranked between 51-150 in international events while the third group would include athletes who have shown potential at the national, state and district level championships.
On funding of sportspersons, Niti Aayog said it has been observed that various sportspersons and/or sports academies receive erratic funding from one year to another. To overcome this and provide constant support, it is recommended by the Aayog that after each Olympics, a fixed 4-year contract is signed between SAI (Sports Authority of India) and sportspersons from Group A sportspersons, keeping in mind the funding required by them up to the next Olympics and other international events in between. For Group B and C also, the budgets for the next 4 years should be fixed, with consistent funding allocation for each year. Funding data for all the groups should be publicly made available as soon as it gets finalised, it suggested.
Citing the success of the IPL, it has been suggested that more investments are made in marketing of existing leagues in the country like the Hockey India League, I-League, Indian Badminton League. The commission has also said movie stars should be roped in the endorse these leagues amongst the priority sports, so as to popularise it by attracting more sponsors and increase viewership. PSU’s, it said, should be acquire naming rights of a facility, event and even sportspersons (beginning from the age of 5) for a defined period of time.
Targeting tribal areas
Sportspersons should be identified from inaccessible tribal, rural and coastal areas of the country and nurtured from a young age. The agency highlighted that, like Haryana produces wrestlers and Jharkhand is known for its talent in producing archers, more such belts need to be identified and tapped. For that, a Special Area Games (SAG) has been initiated under the Sports Authority of India, which covers 26 disciplines. At present, there are 19 SAG Centres in the country having a total strength of 1,676 trainees in the age group of 12 to 18 years.
Medium-to-long term plan
While the medium to long term vision (8-15 years) will focus on identifying talent at a young age, having sports curriculum in schools, a dedicated training programme for coaches, encouraging development of sports infrastructure through private or PPP mode and developing a health and psychological support division. Stress in the medium to long term will also be on the consistent funding of contracts, hosting international events in priority sports as well as promoting a culture of sports in the country.