Editorial Articles

Volume-13, 30 June- 6 July, 2018

Creating a Culture of Sports in the Country

Vidhanshu Kumar

Once India’s legendary sportsperson Kapil Dev was asked why India doesn't win medals proportionate to its population.
Kapil Dev gave a unique insight into this. He said that India is not fulfilling her potential due to lack of 'sports culture' in the country. Elaborating on this he said, sports culture does not mean only few youthful individuals practising sports on a daily basis. According to him, the day  grandfathers go out to jog in the morning with grandchildren, sports culture would arrive in the country.  Sports and games should be inculcated as a habit among all the people, young and old, and then India can be a true
sports superpower that she clearly deserves.
In the last four years, there are clear signs that the government wants to stress on sports not only to win medals at international events, but also to encourage all people to engage in some form of games and physical activity. The most encouraging sign is to see the Prime Minister himself taking huge interest and leading the nation towards fitness and playing physical games.
Khelo India
Among the many initiatives taken up by the Central Government, Khelo India is one that has caught everyone's attention. Khelo India School Games is a concept based on the Olympics model and was launched in January this year. This is a national level multi-disciplinary annual sports competition for under-17 school students of the country. Prime Minister launched this event at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi and said that sports should be given a 'central place' by the youth of the country. The PM has emphasized that Khelo India movement was not only about winning medals, it was also about building a mass movement for playing and engaging more and more people in sports. PM has stressed that as far as talent goes, India has no dearth of it but it is important for people to take up sports and devote time to play games and make sports a priority. Through sports, personality development can also be achieved in a great way.
From Khelo India to CWG medal
A number of achievements and records were broken in the inaugural edition of Khelo India School Games. A total of 209 gold medals were awarded in 16 disciplines that included Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Kabaddi, Kho Kho, Shooting, Swimming, Volleyball, Weight Lifting, Wrestling, and Track and Field events.
Haryana won maximum medals, gold medals at 38 and 102 overall. Maharashtra was second with 110 medals and Delhi finished third with 94 medals to its kitty.
The quality of competition at the Khelo India School Games was top notch. What was most encouraging was to see some of the champions at the Khelo India Games win laurels at international stages including Common Wealth Games.
Teenagers Manu Bhaker (shooting) and Srihari Nataraj (swimming) broke many records at the Khelo India School Games and emerged as champions from the ambitious program launched by the government.
Manu won gold in 10 m Air Pistol with a new national record. Nataraj also broke national record in backstroke and won overall 6 gold and a silver medal at the Khelo India Games.
The two were rewarded with berths at the Common Wealth Games in Australia and they did not disappoint. Nataraj improved upon his record in 50 meters backstroke and reached the semifinals, but could not qualify for the finals.
Meanwhile Manu Bhaker won India's first gold medal at the CWG in Gold Coast. Manu set a new CWG record in 10 m Air Pistol and outshone many senior shooters including Heena Sidhu. Bhaker is already touted as the star for the future.
Khelo India - Taking forward
Government has ambitious plans to take this flagship sports event forward. Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Shri Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has said that there is no shortage of funds for this event. In its future endeavors the Ministry is planning to train more coaches at the grassroot community levels so that they are able to provide right coaching. Plans are also afoot to involve more girls in Khelo India initiative. Idea is to bring more behavioral changes and make playing sports a true culture in the country.
The Ministry is also developing an app that will give information about nearby grounds, playing facilities etc and also provide inputs on how to improve one's game. This app will fill the gaps in 'where to play' and 'how to play'. Government and PSU playing facilities location etc.
can be accessed through this app. There will also be a number of 'how to play' videos in various disciplines.
Fitness Challenge
Under the able leadership of PM, the Sports Ministry has also devised a number of unique programs that have far reaching effects.
Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore started a novel event called Fitness Challenge. Sports fraternity has huge respect for Rathore who is himself an Olympic medal winner.
Rathore tweeted his video in which he is doing push-ups. The Minister also requested people to shoot their own fitness videos and tag others. Rathore tagged Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, who accepted the challenge and posted his own video. Kohli tagged PM Shri Modi who also accepted the challenge. The Prime Minister also urged the nation to take up this drive. Soon this became a huge phenomenon on social media. Hashtag '#Hum Fit Toh India Fit' became viral and trended on various social media platforms.
At the IPL final, a wonderful commercial was played in which PM and other senior leaders along with a host of Bollywood and sports stars are seen taking the fitness challenge and
cajoling people to get into some exercise regime.
Ever since, every day thousands of videos are uploaded online and this movement has escalated into a mass movement. People across states and regions, men and women, all age groups are participating in this fitness challenge. This has ignited a spark and for the movement to attain full benefits it is important that people inculcate fitness regime in their daily routine and not let it go after posting videos.
Target Olympic Podium
The Government is also running a program that aims to see more Indian athletes at the winning pedestal of Olympic Games. The scheme is named as Target Olympic Podium (TOP) and it was launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
The objective of the scheme is to identify medal prospects for 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games and also support them in their training. In the first stage of TOP, seven disciplines - Athletics, Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Shooting, Wrestling and Yachting - were identified.
Around 100 athletes were selected in the stage who were provided financial assistance to undertake training at top institutes in India and abroad.
 The Committee to identify players for this scheme was reconstituted and it got a new chairman in Abhinav Bindra in 2017. The other sportspersons in this ten-member committee are PT Usha, Prakash Padukone, Anajli Bhagwat and Karnam Malleswari.
This committee has the objective to identify and support players for 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. The focused approach is expected to improve India's medals tally at Olympics as respected sportspersons have been roped in to lead this scheme. The current minister Shri Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore himself is an Olympic medal winner and carries a lot of expectation from sports lovers.
Expanding Sports Industry
Many countries have ridden on the wave of sport economy. Sports is a multi-billion dollar global industry and the size of this industry is estimated to be around 600 billion US Dollars. But in this multi-billion dollar industry, India's contribution is a mere 2 billion US Dollars. The Indian government has identified this lacuna. The government wants to expand the sports industry too as this is one sector where India has not performed as well as a country can.
The government believes that with active participation in sports and by winning enough laurels in the international arena, the ecosystem for sports industry can be strengthened.
While inaugurating a world class synthetic track in Kerala, the PM said via video conference that a strong sporting culture can help the growth of a sporting economy. He said sports can help in creating employment in different segments like professional leagues, sports science, sports equipment and surfaces, sports medicine, merchandise and sports apparels, support staffs, nutrition, skill development, sports management etc.
India's performance in big events
India's performance in multi discipline and multi country events has been constantly improving.
A clear pattern of improved performance over the years emerges for India. The period of 2008-2012 sees a clear high in achievements with a slight dip in 2014-2016.
From the lows of Beijing Asian Games in 1990 when India won a lone medal in Kabaddi, to finishing 8th in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, India has come a long way. At the Incheon Asian Games that were held from 19 September to 4 October 2014, India won 11 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 36 Bronze medals. India won a total  of 57 medals in 2014. This was however less as compared to 2010 Asian Games in Guangzou, China where India won 65 medals and finished 6th. Indian athletes are hoping to better their performance in the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta and Pelembang, Indonesia.
In Common Wealth Games India's best ever performance was in 2010 when the nation won 101 medals with 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze medals. India finished second overall in medals tally, just behind Australia. However there was a dip in 2014 when India won 15 gold medals, 30 silver medals and 19 bronze medals. But this tally was improved in the just concluded Common Wealth Games in Australia. India won 66 medals with 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze medals.
At the Summer Olympics too India 2012 London Olympics was India's best performance ever in terms of most medals won - 6 in all with 2 silvers and 4 bronze medals.
Gold medal has been elusive for India since Abhinav Bindra's gold in 2008, and before that 8 gold medals that Indian Hockey team has won over the years. In 2016 Rio Olympics, India could win two medals - one silver and one bronze.
India is hoping that the continued effort by government, sports federations and athletes and coaches will help improve results in coming events. Common Wealth Games of 2018 is a good sign of improvement and hopefully India will continue the good results at Asian Games and Tokyo Olympics.
Other than multi-discipline events, Indian players have shown great improvements in the disciplines of badminton and shooting and marked improvement in table tennis, athletics, chess etc.
Schemes such as Target Olympic Podium have been designed to help India get better medals position and the efforts are beginning to show results.
The most heartening fact is the impetus of the present government to bring a culture of sports in the country. The two pronged approach - one, to motivate people to play games and two, to help India achieve more medals is a correct way to address the problem of lack of awareness towards sports in India. For India to grow into a sporting nation sports has to come out of the clutches of a few highly motivated people and the masses should indulge in sporting activities. Once more and more people are encouraged to take up sports, the problem of winning less medals will automatically get solved. The focus is not only about winning, but also about creating a fit India. 
The answer is that right efforts are finally being made towards this and India has started a long journey that will help reap rich rewards, not only in the field of sports, but in overall growth and development of the nation.
The author is a sports journalist based in New Delhi email: vidhanshu. kumar@gmail.com