The National Games in Gujarat are set to make a grand statement on the state’s capability to host mega sports events. With the budget increased to a staggering Rs 2,000 crore for refurbishment of venues and other infrastructure, the Games look ready to roll. While the sporting benefits will be seen only in a long-term trickle down, a spectacle is immediately assured. India has had a couple of memorable National Games prior to this one. The infrastructure created at Balewadi in Pune and Gachibowli in Hyderabad has served the modest target of remaining useful. Hopefully, Ahmedabad will do better.
Seen as a part of the lead-up to the Gujarat Assembly elections, the hurriedly put-together event might well deliver, like Indian wedding planners do, but the timing hasn’t exactly been ideal. Athletes have been summoned in the middle of performance-peaking training for a host of world championships, like TT and shooting, the latter with Olympic quotas on offer. In the absence of a university structure of competition or a truly significant open nationals in individual sports, however, the National Games with its magnanimous pouring in of funds, can be an important nudge for elevating domestic sport. It is the responsibility of organisers now to make returns on this investment count in truly sporting terms.
One National Games, even if successful, will not help in the absence of a sustained pursuit and process of sporting excellence. But the Games could be a great opportunity to expose players on the second rung to the pressure of performing in front of spectators, not just for dragging half-hearted elite athletes through a week of easy strolls-in-the-park. No one doubts India’s capacity to pull off the grand spectacle, but sport needs seriousness and commitment to host the Games — even if not so grand and costly — year after year.