Day 1 of TURF 2013@FICCI
Keynote Speaker: Mr Jiji Thomson, Director-General, Sports Authority of India
Moderator: Mr Digvijay Singh Deo, Deputy Editor, Sports, CNN-IBN
Mr Adille Sumairwala, President, Athletics Federation of India
Miss Manisha Malhotra, CEO, Mittal Champion Trust
Mr Baljit Singh Sethi, Advisor, NRAI
Mr Mukesh Kumar, President, Judo Federation of India
One of the key area of discussions at the 5th Global Sports Summit was about the current challenges that are prevalent within Indian sports and what can be done to solve them. That made the on goings of this session even more crucial because the views and opinions were aligned directly with respect to 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio,Brazil. The session was initiated by Mr Thomson who emphasized on the need of sports curriculum and how change in the mindset at both personal as well as Government level is required for any progress to happen.
Profligacy and media treatment
Mr Sumairwala's view was very insightful as he didn't mince his words on what is going on right now. He said that as a sporting nation, there is a lack of depth. This only results in the Indian athlete not being pushed enough. This just breeds complacency and nothing good comes of that. He also took the session moderator Mr Deo to task by saying media treatment of players needs to be managed in a much better manner than it is right now. By putting every second athlete on a pedestal, media only makes matters worse.
He was equally critical of the irregularities that exist at federation level these days.
Importance of Support Staff
The need of a support team behind athletes is well-documented. These days it is just not about the coaches, its also about the fitness coaches, physiotherapists and nutritionists. For an athlete to stay fit and perform at peak fitness, having this support staff is imperative.
However, this is less of a problem and more of a conundrum. The lack of support personnel stems from the fact that sports sciences in India are scant. Add to that the abysmal remuneration involved, the alarming lack of interest is understandable.
Need for ethical practices
Doping is another grave issue that is marring sports in India at this time. Mr. Sumairwala made an intriguing revelation that most athletes are introduced to prohibitive substances at school level by their physical education teachers. It was both shocking and sad to hear that.
If athletes start taking performance enhancers from such an early age, they will never work hard to improve in their sport and India as a sporting nation will continue being devoid of numbers which could have made up the bench strength.
The athlete of today is aware
Ms Manisha Malhotra, an Olympian herself, admitted going to Olympics for the sake of experiencing the event. However, athletes these days are pretty used to foreign trips and exposure. She affirms that the current crop want to go to sporting events to win medals.
It is good to know that the priorities are set right. It is possible to ensure Olympics in 2016 is a rewarding and morale-boosting if these challenges are addressed.
Federations need to be more accountable
Towards the end, Mr Thomson requested for better accountability from the federations as he believed that criticizing the Sports Authority of India was a convenient escape route. The mandate of SAI is to look after and train the elite athletes but at present, they are having to do much more than that as they address issues at both state and regional levels. Progress would come about if criticism is kept aside and there is a better sense of coordination amongst sporting bodies in India.