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Editorial Articles


Issue no 35, 25 Nov - 01 Dec 2023

 

India's Sports Trajectory

From National Achievements to Olympic Aspirations

 

Advitya Bahl

India's Memorable Sporting Feats in 2023

The year 2023 has been adorned with unforgettable moments, stellar performances, and historic victories on the global stage that will be etched in the memories of Indian sports enthusiasts for years to come. The year commenced with resounding cheers as India played host to the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup from January 13 to 29 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. This prestigious tournament not only brought together the best hockey teams globally but also witnessed a spirited performance by the home team, setting the stage for an action-packed year. In the domain of tennis, Indian players showcased their prowess at the Australian Open in Melbourne (January 16-29), followed by Wimbledon (July 3-13) and the US Open (August 28 - September 10). The Grand Slam stages provided a platform for Indian tennis talents to shine and make their mark on the international circuit. Badminton enthusiasts were treated to an exhilarating year with the All England Badminton Championships in Birmingham (March 14-19) and the World Badminton Champion-ships in Copenhagen, Denmark (August 21-27). Renowned stars such as PV Sindhu, Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, and Kidambi Srikanth continued to bring honour to the nation with their exceptional performances. Despite missing out on the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, Indian football has experienced a reviving leap under the leadership of legend Sunil Chhetri. The triumph in the SAFF Championship, marked by a thrilling penalty shootout victory against Kuwait, fuelled the impressive performance in the Asian Games. In the world of athletics, the Indian contingent, led by luminaries like Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable, and Eldhose Paul, left an indelible mark at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary (August 19-27). Their unmatched performances underscored India's growing influence in track and field events. The Hangzhou Asian Games (September 23 - October 8) brought together over 600 Indian athletes across 38 sporting events. India finished eighth with a remarkable medal tally of 70 (gold-16, silver-24, bronze-30), show-casing the country's rising dominance in Asian sports. In the Asian Para Games too, Indian para athletes shattered records by winning a record haul of medals, showcasing the prowess of India's sporting talent. Neeraj Chopra's golden arm continued to shine in the 2023 World Athletic Championship, securing gold and a Diamond League title. The 4x400m men's relay team made history with an Asian record, showcasing India's prowess on the track. Rameshbabu Praggnanandhha's recent performance at the 2023 FIDE Chess World Cup showcased India's bright future in chess. The emergence of talents like Ravi Kumar and Manu Bhaker adds to India's promising future in shooting. The athletes' dedication, hard work, and resilience have not only brought glory to the nation but have also inspired generations to come. As India looks forward to the challenges and opportunities of the future, the echoes of 2023's sporting triumphs will undoubtedly serve as a source of inspiration and pride. In the vibrant state of Goa, under the warm embrace of sun-kissed beaches and bustling streets, the 37th National Games of India unfolded from October 27 to November 9. It wasn't just a celebration of athleticism; it was a testament to the incredible progress and determination of the Indian sports sector. The event showcased over 10,000 athletes engaging in a record 43 disciplines, symbolising a commitment to nurture talents and harvest the socio-economic benefits tied to promoting sportsmanship and hosting events.

This year's edition introduced several disciplines like sqay, beach football, roll ball, golf, sepak takraw, kalaripayattu, pencak silat, and Mini golf, marking a step forward in diversifying sports in the country. Yachting and taekwondo also made a triumphant return. Spread across locations like Mapusa, Panjim, Ponda, Vasco, and Margao, the games reached their zenith on November 10, 2023, with Maharashtra claiming the top spot after nearly three decades. Maharashtra's athletes displayed exceptional performances, securing a total of 228 medals, including an impressive 80 gold, 69 silver, and 79 bronze, clinching the prestigious Raja Bhalindra Singh Rolling Trophy. The services, dominant since 2007, secured the second position, while Haryana stood strong in the third spot. Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, and the host state Goa celebrated their achievements in the top five. Individual brilliance shone through as Karnataka swimmer Srihari Nataraj earned the title of Best Male Athlete with a remarkable haul of 8 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze. Gymnasts Sanyukta Prasen Kale and Pranati Nayak of Odisha claimed the Best Female Athlete titles, each securing 4 gold and 1 silver. Aligned with the spirit of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat,' the National Games provide each state with a platform to showcase its capabilities, promoting empowerment, unity, and the unyielding spirit of a nation on the rise. Moreover, coordinated efforts between the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and state governments, with each state hosting a different edition, not only showcase regional sporting infrastructure and talent but also cultivate a collective responsibility for sports promotion. These games represent more than just medals and accolades; they stand as a testament to India's commitment to success, mirroring the nation's progress in every sector.

 

Upcoming Events to be Hosted by India

As the India's sporting calendar is coming to close with the resounding success of the ICC World Cup 2023, India gears up to host a diverse array of international competitions in 2024, showcasing its prowess as a global sports hub. The year kicks off with the 2024 India Open, a BWF Badminton World Tour event set to captivate audiences in New Delhi from January 16 to 21. Following this, the 2024 FIH Hockey Women's Pro League takes center stage in Bhubaneswar from February 3 to 9, bringing together elite women's hockey teams from around the world. The city of Hyderabad then embraces the thrill of Formula E racing with the 2024 Hyderabad E-Prix on February 10, promising an eco-friendly motorsports spectacle. Bhubaneswar continues its sporting fervor by hosting the 2024 FIH Hockey Men's Pro League from February 10 to 16. Rourkela steps into the limelight next, hosting back-to-back field hockey events, the 2024 FIH Hockey Women's Pro League (February 12-18) and the 2024 FIH Hockey Men's Pro League (February 19-25). Concluding the year, Lucknow welcomes the 2024 Syed Modi India International from November 26 to December 1, offering another showcase of high-caliber badminton. Looking beyond, India is set to host the 2025 Women's Cricket World Cup on March 1, promising a celebration of women's cricket excellence.

 

Benefits of Hosting Sporting Events

While logistical and infrastructural challenges accompany the organisation of the National Games, or any other sporting event for that matter, the multifarious positive impact is undeniable. As a city or country gears up to host a sporting spectacle, a transformative power is unleashed, cutting through bureaucratic hurdles and swiftly addressing issues that might otherwise linger in endless debates. Hosting a major event becomes a golden opportunity, a common rallying point that accelerates infrastructure development, demanding excellence. It's a chance to showcase the very best the host has to offer. The collaboration between public and private sectors, and communities uniting in pursuit of a shared goal, fosters unprecedented cooperation across political barriers and various levels of government. This efficiency paves the way for innovative ideas in environmental sustainability, diversity, and community engagement, orchestrating an unforgettable spectacle that leaves a legacy of positive and lasting change.

 Economic Stimulus: The influx of tourists, coupled with heightened demand for goods and services, propels the local economy towards a crescendo of growth driving financial transactions and employment opportunities.

Infrastructure Development: Hosting a major sporting event involves architectural planning that extends beyond the immediate spectacle. The venues metamorphose into enduring monuments, manifesting a broader vision- a testament to a community's commitment to shaping a legacy of inclusivity and accessibility etched in concrete and steel.

Platform for Environmental Impact: The planning and execution of a sporting extravaganza demand conscious act of urban development. The commitment to environmental sustainability becomes a blueprint for conscious progress, laying the groundwork for a sustainable legacy that speaks volumes about a community's responsibility to the environment and future generations.

Youth Development: Beyond the exuberance of the crowd and the fervor of competition, hosting a sporting event emerges as an incubator of aspirations. It is an inspirational platform shaping the character and ambitions of the younger generation. The legacy extends to the aspirations kindled, the dreams inspired, and the leaders and athletes of tomorrow nurtured in the crucible of competition.

Technological Innovation: Beyond the cheers of the crowd, the event serves as a crucible for technological innovation. From cutting-edge event management systems to revolutionary broadcasting technologies, the event becomes a testament to a city's commitment to progress and innovation, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage.

Social Cohesion: A sporting event forges connections among diverse communities. It is a symphony of pride and identity, fostering social cohesion that transcends the bounds of daily life. The venues transform into symbols of inclusivity, narrating a story of a community that values diversity and equality.

Promotion of Human Rights: Beyond the cheers and competition, hosting a major sporting event carries a profound responsibility to champion human rights and social justice. It is a stage for the host to amplify voices for equality, diversity, and inclusiveness.

Fostering Communal Peace: Hosting a national level sporting event is a tactful overture, a call for communities to converge on a common ground of competition and camaraderie. It transcends political and communal differences, knitting a fabric of enduring partnerships that extends far beyond the sports arena.

Civic Pride: A sporting event is not merely a celebration of the present but a proclamation of a community's resilience, achievements, and collective spirit, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of civic pride.

 

Current State of India's Sporting Ecosystem

As India continues to strive for excellence on the global sporting stage, the path to masterfully executing events, both national and international, demands a multi-faceted approach. This commitment is deeply rooted in a decade-long journey that witnessed a holistic approach to revamp the sports ecosystem. A threefold increase in sports budget in the last nine years, initiatives like Khelo India and the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), underscore this dedication. These schemes, akin to a meticulously crafted training regimen for an elite athlete, underscore the importance of grassroots development, infrastructure augmentation, identifying talent, and providing them with the necessary resources to compete on the world stage. Much like a visionary coach who looks beyond immediate victories, India has been investing in state-of-the-art sports infrastructure, coaching programmes, and scientific training methodologies. In recent times, India has made strides in sports infrastructure, with both the government and private sector taking steps to develop it further. Despite these efforts, there are still challenges to overcome to make sports accessible to everyone and support the growth of budding athletes. The Sports Infra-structure Sector presents opportunities worth $2.2 billion.

India currently has about 100 sports facilities meeting international standards. Additionally, there are government-owned college grounds, community centers, and private facilities contributing to this ecosystem. Notably, the Khelo India scheme, launched in 2018, is a significant government initiative to boost grassroots sports infrastructure. The scheme not only financially supports training and development but has also played a vital role in discovering and nurturing talents nationwide. In the past five years, 282 sports infrastructure projects, amounting to $1431.25 million, have been under-taken through the Khelo India Programme (Source: Invest India). Meanwhile, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) continues to manage various sports facilities and provide training and coaching across the country. SAI has established regional centers and academies to foster sports at the grassroots level. Moreover, the two pipeline projects supporting infrastructure: the National Investment Pipeline (NIP) and the National Monetisation Pipeline, would also enhance infrastructure supporting the country's sporting ecosystem. State governments are also actively contributing to sports infrastructure development. For instance, Goa spent $90 million on the recently concluded National Games, while Odisha invested $86.66 million in constructing 89 multi-purpose indoor stadiums to host global events like the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and the Men's Hockey World Cup. Private investment in sports infrastructure has grown, with many organisations establishing sports academies and centers to promote sports at the grassroots level. Despite these positive steps, challenges persist, including the insufficient maintenance of existing infrastructure and the need for better facilities for various sports beyond cricket. Continuous investment from both the government and the private sector is essential to overcome these challenges, ensuring widespread access to sports facilities and fostering the development of young sporting talent. This commitment will not only create a vibrant sporting culture within the country but also enhance India's sporting reputation globally.

 

India's Olympics 2036 Bid

Hosting mega sports extravaganzas have become the ultimate pursuit for governments worldwide. The grandeur of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the pulse-pounding excitement of the ICC World Cup and FIFA World Cup, the adrenaline-fueled thrill of Formula One, and the iconic Tour de France. These aren't just competitions; they're catalysts for monumental change, propelling host nations into the spotlight and kickstarting a multitude of economic, political, and social development.  Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has ignited India's ambition by affirming the nation's bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2036. Addressing the 141st session of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) held recently in Mumbai, the PM articulated that hosting the Olympics resonates as the age-old dream and aspiration of 140 crore Indians, emphasising India's determination to pursue this dream, leaving "no stone unturned" in the meticulous preparations for the grand spectacle. The Prime Minister's announcement followed India's triumph at the Asian Games, where the nation's athletes achieved their best-ever medal haul. As the world eagerly awaits the upcoming Olympic editions in Paris (2024), Los Angeles (2028), and Brisbane (2032), 2036 is the earliest available slot for India's bid. Ahmedabad is being considered the frontrunner, with the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Enclave at the forefront of the envisioned venue clusters.

Winning the opportunity to host such grand spectacles demands more than just enthusiasm; it requires a strategic approach and a deep understanding of the intricate dynamics at play. First and foremost, India must acknowledge and address its inherent constraints. Considering the challenges posed by scorching climates in most parts of the country, especially for events like the Summer Olympics, is crucial. Realism must prevail to avoid pursuing endeavours that may prove logistically or environmentally unrealistic. Moving beyond the tangible aspects, such as robust infrastructure and financial investments, effective leader-ship emerges as a game-changer. Governments need to showcase their capability in articulating a compelling vision and fostering collaboration across political boundaries. This leadership is not just about logistics; it's about inspiring confidence and generating a unified national spirit. Passion, both from the public and key stakeholders, is the heartbeat of a successful bid. This fervour, coupled with strong unity, not only enhances a host's appeal but also showcases a willingness to go the extra mile. It's not just about the numbers; it's about creating an atmosphere where everyone is invested in the success of the event. Nevertheless, India's journey in the realm of sports reflects a steadfast commitment to exce-llence, a vibrant celebration of diversity, and a visionary outlook for a transformative future. The evolution of India's sporting ecosystem, growing stronger with each passing year, reflects not only in the enhanced performances of our athletes but also the commitment with which the nation aspires to shine in the global sporting arena - in terms of both competition and hosting. As the nation sets its sights on the ambitious goals, the collective spirit of India, ignited by passion, unity, and strategic foresight, positions it as an undeniably formidable con-tender. And the resounding triumphs of 2023 serve as more than just milestones; they are the building blocks of inspiration and pride, propelling India to unprecedented heights.

 

(The author is Correspondent of a leading Delhi-based news publication. Feedback on this article can be sent to feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com)

 

Views expressed are personal.