Indian Sports: Initiatives, Obstacles and Requirements

 

India, a country with a population of more than 1 billion, has achieved limited success in the international arena of sports, especially in the Olympic Games. In 1900, India participated in the Modern Olympic Games for the first time with a lone athlete, Norman Pritchard. Since then, the country has won only nine gold medals, six silver medals and 11 bronze medals. Except field hockey, the performance in the Olympics of Indian athletes in other sports has not been remarkable.

Table 1 represents the medals won by Indian athletes in specific disciplines in the Summer Olympic Games.

Table 1: India’s Medals in Summer Olympic Games

Table 1 clearly represents that India won the most medals in field hockey, but the performance of India’s athletes in other disciplines was inconsistent.

Table 2 shows the medals won by individual athletes in the Summer Olympic Games since the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Table 2: Medals Won by Indian Athletes in Summer Olympic Games

Table 2 represents an improvement in the performance of Indian athletes in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and 2012 London Olympic Games. However, this improvement could not be compared with the global standard.

Sushil Kumar took silver at the 2012 London Olympic Games in Freestyle wrestling in the men's 66 kg division, becoming the first Indian to win an individual medal in back-to-back Olympics.

The Planning Commission of India estimates that the country will emerge as the youngest country in the world by 2016 by becoming the home of approximately 510 million people of the age group of 15- 35 years. It will certainly be a challenge to the nation to provide sporting opportunities to this large youth population to achieve two objectives. One objective is to make the nation fit. The second objective is to produce champions. To achieve these purposes, a strong sports policy is required. All resources must be arranged to ensure the successful implementation of the sports policy, which is essential to make the country a sporting nation.

In 1982, India organized the Asian Games for the second time. Prior to that, not much emphasis was given to sports in public policies. From 2008 to 2009, India’s government invested Rs. 13 billion to stage the 2010 Commonwealth Games successfully, which means a per capita expenditure of less than US $1 in sports was made. During the same time, the German government made an investment of US $330 million for the development of sports in their country, which translates to a per capita investment of US $4 in sports (Source: Ernst & Young Analysis).

However, a gradual increase can be observed for the allocation of sports in the Five- Year Plans in India. In the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-1985), the allocation was only INR 270 million, while in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-2012), the allocation had been increased to INR 46,360 million, which clearly shows the increased importance of sports in public policies.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI), through its various schemes, such as National Sports Talent Contest (NSTC) Scheme, SAI Training Centre (STC) Scheme, National Coaching Scheme, etc., caters to the need of the country. India is one of most consistent countries of the world in terms of participating in the international events. Despite all these attempts, Indai fails to achieve sustained success in the international arena of sports. The possible reason for this is the country’s failure in identifying and nurturing the talents at the right age. In the next section of this article, we shall focus on these areas in which India is lacking and will try to find a long-term solution for them.

India, despite being a country of a huge population, could not secure a permanent position in the global sporting map due to the following reasons:

  • Lack of infrastructural facilities
  • Lack of maintenance of the existing infrastructural facilities
  • Limited or no recognition for various disciplines of sports other than cricket
  • Lack of career direction in sports
  • Lack of educational support, which is an obstacle for an athlete in building a career after completing a career in sports
  • Lack of transparency and accountability in the system of sports, which impact upon the career of the sportspersons
  • Lack of coaching programs to produce qualified coaches to identify, nurture and produce sporting champions
  • Lack of technological applications to improve motion, force, movement, muscle activities of a sportsperson for the preparation for an international event
  • Lack of psychological analysis to drive the sportspersons towards achieving excellence
  • Lack of application of sports medicine to improve fitness, to reduce injuries and to undertake recovery and rehabilitation

The question is how we can solve these problems. This certainly needs a complete overhaul in professionalism, which will start with comprehensive planning and continue until a proper system of control is established. This will need “money” or “financial resources” that cannot be generated without converting the amateur sports system of India into a revenue-making model.

In India, the Governing Bodies are still dominated by the political leaders and bureaucrats, who hardly devote any time to introducing a professional set-up. Even the management positions are occupied by local-level leaders, who are usually associated with the system to fulfill their political motives. They neither have the time nor the willingness to generate and allocate funds for the overall development of sports of India.

It is the high time to change the registration of these bodies from a “society” to a “company,” except Clause 25, and to force them to abide by all provisions of the Companies Act 1956 in order to become a commercial entity. A complete revamp in the structure would be the first step to initiate a change and the rest will follow.

  • Make it mandatory for all sports bodies to submit a Long-term Development Plan (LTDP) to a higher body, based on which they will receive grants. The LTDP must include a systematic infrastructure, developmental and marketing plan for the overall development of that discipline of sports.
  • Make an attempt to shift sports from the “State” list to the “Concurrent” list of the Constitution to ensure uniform sporting opportunity to the sportspersons throughout the country.
  • Make sports mandatory at the school level, if not to produce champions, at least to produce a fit and healthy nation.
  • Let India create a sports culture.
  • Let the country accept that champions cannot be produced on a sustained basis if a sports culture with a revenue system cannot be generated. The government has to play a pro-active role, but we all can play a role by encouraging at least one child to participate in sports.

Do that and India will establish itself on the sporting map of the world.

Ankan Banerjee is an assistant professor in the Naval Tata Centre of Excellence in Sports Management at the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management in Kolkata, India. This article was printed here with the permission of Banerjee.

 

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