Sports is Serious- More Than Just a Game

Sports is Serious- More Than Just a Game

The Olympics is just past us, and we did well. It was India’s best-ever performance beating its tally count at the 2012 London Olympic games. But, as we all know, sports is very much visual to the fan and observer alike. So here is a graphic that will tell you India’s 2021 Olympics story:

Concerning their international counterparts, India is slowly taking its place as one of the world’s centers. And it is pretty interesting to note how athletic and sports performance increases with the influence of the particular nation. And the Tokyo 2021 Olympics suggests India is no exception to the rule.

However, the glorious tricolor has received significant help from the efforts put in by individual athletes and increasingly modern and vigorous sporting infrastructure. It is not perhaps comparable to developed nations, but things are getting better. One critical factor that determines the infrastructure of a particular sport is its popularity. But the paradox is that you need to perform exceptionally well to draw in the crowds and the investment with it. A specific section of sports experts concedes that private undertakings in such infrastructure perform better than those of the state-sponsored infrastructure we have in place.

But the point is- India is catching up in sports infrastructure, and there’s no denying that.

A discussion on Indian sports infrastructure remains incomplete without mentioning the SAI (Sports Authority of India) facility in New Delhi. It has experienced up-gradation several times. Other regions are catching up, too, if not exceeding the standards set by SAI, New Delhi. Such state-of-the-art infrastructure is primarily led by private institutions like Vijayanagara’s (Karnataka) IIS (Inspire Institute of Sports). However, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad are not that behind either, thanks to PDCSE (Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence) and TransStadia, located in the mentioned order.

The PDCSE facility is spread over 15 acres and is in the vicinity of Bengaluru’s International Airport. The facility opened its doors in 2017 and is named after the stalwarts of Indian sports- Prakash Padukone, the ace shuttler, and Rahul “the wall” Dravid. PDSCE houses the world’s first private badminton academy. As authorities profess, the initial funding came from private sources, and public financing also came into the picture, albeit later. The badminton arm aimed to help national-level badminton players compete internationally by providing all the necessary facilities.

On the other hand, the sprawling 42-acre IIS campus focuses on four particular athletics and sports played at the Olympic level: boxing, track, field, wrestling, and judo.  IIS boasts 400m synthetic and 200m eight-lane grass tracks. It also sports a square 62m combat hall. This hall houses three boxing, wrestling, and judo mats. The last thing to mention about this impressive set-up is its convenient location. Hospitals, educational institutes, and entertainment complexes are all in the vicinity. IIS also has a residential area with beds for 300 athletes and a state-of-the-art performance center with a 16,000 sq ft multi-gym. There are lab and massage facilities available too.

Due to the very nature of the world, like believers, there are detractors too. And the latter often have some very valid points that we should consider. For example, there are some widespread complaints about sports management in our country. The opposing camp alleges that unaccountability has led to nepotistic behavior and decisions. Moreover, corruption in the form of financial irregularities is rampant, they allege. However, sports programs are indeed getting more and more attention like the Khelo India Games program funds. The $120M allocated for the same is expected to rev up the sports and athletic motors in the country.

There are many legal complications in sports management in India that need to be sorted out if India is ever to become a sports powerhouse and not indulge just in its cricket prowess. We wouldn’t be getting into the details of the legalities of sports management. Still, it is very much there with many grey areas that need to be redrawn in black and white.

Another critical problem sports and athletics face is that governmental policies too, like the legal specifics, are unclear. Indeed, the government has taken several steps to promote such physical activities. Still, often we find that there are no fixed jurisdictions or other specifics and the overlaps raise plenty of questions. For example, the particular coverage of the two Khelo Programs (Khelo India School Games and Khelo India Youth Games) is not clear. Further, detractors are quick to point out that the objectives of the two programs too remain unclear, and experts associated with them state conflicting views.

But experts agree to the driving principle behind the programs- fostering a sports culture from the ground up.

One fundamental issue that is a blot that the recent Olympic success has managed to make up for to some extent is the suspension of IOA (Indian Olympic Association) in 2012. It was the result of the members of the body having criminal cases pending against them.

The actions of subsequent governments and the performance of Indian athletes have restored some lost glory to the rich sporting traditions of India. But the need for accountability seems to be due. The key to this is the right people in the right places. And this is something you can’t achieve playing politics or running organizations with your relatives. It isn’t literal always, but nepotism is something that has seeped right into the very way numerous institutions function, and it needs to be weeded out at the soonest.

Another common complaint amongst members of the sports fraternity and people associated with it is that the problem often isn’t lack of resources but underutilization of the same. To fulfill our dream of becoming a sports powerhouse, we need to invest heavily in sports infrastructure, which would help budding talent from the grass-root level itself. Another issue is the lack of adequate financial support for budding sporting talent.

Most experts don’t doubt the government’s good intentions, but the plethora of challenges to be surmounted make them anticipate a relatively pessimistic outcome. Lack of transparency, faulty resource allocation, poor asset management, and lack of investment outcome of assessment procedures and frameworks make the task an uphill one.

Despite the challenges, it is for sure that there is significant progress in building sports and athletics infrastructure. Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana are all hotspots in the Indian sporting map, albeit with specializations in the particular sport they promote.

Experts feel that often sports education can give athletes the spur they need even without world-class infrastructure. Knowing the soft skills of the athletic world how to train more effectively, create home pseudo-gyms with affordable and easy to obtain equipment substitutes, can help a lot. They cite the epicenter of the running world, Iten in Kenya, as the kind of model countries with scarce resources should follow. Yet another issue is that very few families support their kids in their sporting passion unless it is something widely popular like cricket. Studies and jobs are the set path, and any deviation is strongly discouraged.

But there is progress; make no mistake about that. Even civil society is slowly but surely waking up to its moral responsibility by contributing to India’s sporting aspirations. Organizations that encourage and facilitate sports at the grassroots level are increasing by the day. They encourage daily participation in sports and, as a consequence, make these youngsters confident and have a positive personality and self-image. Further, they inspire these talents to pursue their passion as a career.

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