For an athlete who spent decades complaining about the step-motherly treatment dished out to the sports portfolio, the pressure will be to deliver now. New Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore takes over from Vijay Goel, who set up a number of committees within the ministry which have not, however, seen any visible results yet. India’s preparation for the Tokyo Olympics are in a shambles; a roadmap recommended by an Olympic Task Force for the next three Olympics is yet to be implemented.
Goel was, however, popular with athletes because access to funds was less difficult, paperwork was reduced and the minister was accessible. Goel was also very visible: in the lawns of his home are life-size cutouts of him and Narendra Modi playing football. He often had his pictures clicked with medal winners; at the Rio Olympics, the organisers threatened to revoke his accreditation after he entered the field of play on more than one occasion.
Expectations will be very high of Rathore, who won a silver at the Athens Olympics 13 years ago. The country’s first sportsperson-turned-sports minister understands the athletes’ point of view when dealing with the bureaucracy, is aware of the politics within sports federations, and knows what it takes to win a medal.