P.V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik were the only two athletes which saved India from coming back empty handed from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Comparing India’s previous Olympic records of London 2012 and Beijing 2008, we were below par this time in Rio. High time we pull up our socks and start planning from now for the future of sports in India. Looking at the disastrous outcome at Rio 2016 no other than the Prime Minister himself has decided to step in and take action. The Prime Minister deciding to set up a taskforce for next three Olympics (2020, 2024 and 2028) is an encouraging initiative from the PM. Mr.Modi must have been forced to take this decision following a dismal show by India in Rio 2016 and all round criticism on every aspect of sports in India including lack of proper and timely support to athletes preparing for Olympics.
WHY THE TASK FORCE?
Who all will be the part of this proposed task force? What would be the terms of references for this task force? For how long will this taskforce will be functional? What sort of authority will be given to this proposed task force? Which government department or Ministry will extend the secretarial support to this task force? Who will be the chairman of this taskforce? Who will be responsible for implementing task force recommendations or plans? Will there be an accountability structure? What would be the role of Federations? Will the taskforce have to draft a plan or suggest measures considering a specific budget? Etc. These are a few questions which come to my mind when I think about this initiative as all will go wrong if the right people are not appointed to the team and the whole point of forming a task force will not make any sense. This taskforce will be formed specifically for Olympics therefore, the primary role of this task force shall be to prepare a strategy and master plan to identify medal winning prospects and prepare these probable athletes for the upcoming three Olympics. In simple words, the taskforce will deal with all matters related to high performance in Indian sport particularly related to Olympic sport.
KEY TO THE TASK FORCE
Choice of members in the taskforce is going to be key
Hope it won’t be based on the playing record of ex-players but the members will be purely selected on the basis of expertise and experience each of them have in planning and executing high performance or sports excellence with sports and having a track record which gives that confidence to 1.25 billion. Without gaining the confidence of people and sports personalities this taskforce will also have the same impact as any other task force which government must have formed after every debacle. Task force must have at least one or two global experts who have worked either in US or China or UK or Australia or other leading sports nations.
THE TASK FOR THE TASK FORCE
The problems are many for Indian sport –
- Participation numbers are negligible;
- No sports culture
- Very little encouragement at the grassroots level;
- Sports infra and facilities are inferior and grossly inadequate;
- Number of trainers/ coaches are significantly low;
- Poor coach education system;
- Opportunities are few and far for players and coaches to get the right kind of education, knowledge, exposure and competitions;
- sports science is still far away from Indian sport;
- No integrated approach involving all the stakeholders;
- No existing strategy and vision for Indian sport;
- Talent identification and management haphazard and unscientific;
- No long term training model exist for talented players/ athletes; very weak competitive environment for athletes at local or regional or national level;
- Timely and proper sports injury management or rehabilitation aspects are still out of reach for many athletes; issues with overall sports governance in the country
- A negligible sports budget
The job of the taskforce going to be highly challenging unless, otherwise, India is prepared to start from scratch in the area of high performance and sports excellence. What is existing is a primitive set up and structure, and unless there is no excellence to manage excellence India will be struggling to produce Olympic Champions or world beaters, except those exceptional few who come through with their own effort.
Considering all these problems, can India achieve much in next three Olympics?
People who understand the global high performance sports environment won’t bet high on India achieving significantly better results in next few Olympics. However, with better planning and professional execution India can certainly increase its medal tally from 2 to 10 medals by 2024 and by 2028 15 medals are a possibility but anything beyond won’t be possible as excellence in sports can’t be achieved overnight as to set right Indian sport is going to be a mammoth task and the way India functions – where political “will” and “priority” of the government is a known fact. As the establishment of a taskforce is initiated by the Prime Minister therefore, the expectation is sky high and every sports friendly citizen of the nation would expect a drastic change in the way India deals with sports in India.
Will it happen? Will there be a new body created to look after high performance sports in India, involving professionals – outside the government?
If that happens then there will be accountability in the entire system – with current structure and system, there won’t be any accountability in the system. Is the government ready to invest billions in creating world class high performance centres? Is the government ready to scrap the existing structure where all government is directly administering and managing facilities and training? We will eagerly wait to see every aspect of this taskforce and how the taskforce will impact the future of sports in India.