India's standard in sports has been declining over the years and there is a need for immediate reform and sound strategy to perform in the upcoming events like 2020 Olympics. What ails sports sector? Discuss while suggesting appropriate government strategy.

Although India is a trillion dollar economy, India lags behind in the field of sports. It is a shame for a nation of 130 crore people to have only won 28 Olympic medals so far in 97 years. Performance in Olympic Games is a measure of a country’s commitment, level of discipline, character, strength, stamina, and skill. Even tiny and poor nations like Fiji, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Tajikistan manages to rank above India in the medal tally. In the recently held Rio Olympics, India managed to bag a silver and a bronze medal. This was not the case earlier. For example, the Indian hockey team has won eight Olympic gold medals from 1928 to 1956. But it has not managed to reach even the semi-final stage in the past 37 years. Similarly, in football, India was the champion in the 1951 Asian games but now it has not even got qualified for the 2018 World Cup football qualifier.
What ails sports sector in India?

  • Deep rooted corruption and mismanagement in sports administration.
  • Regional bias and the identification of best talent are arbitrary.
  • Lack of social security for sportspersons does not make it as a lucrative career option amongst the youngsters.
  • Excess focus on cricket and badminton.
  • Lack of a strong sense of patriotism.
  • Monetisation of sports activities.
  • Lack of world-class infrastructure.
  • Lack of sporting culture among kids due to the importance shown towards academics. Estimates tell that urban centres have lost 80% of open spaces which once encouraged sport in the last three decades.
  • Chronic lethargy and lack of dedicated vision for sports.

Government should frame a dedicated national sports policy with State-of-the-art monitoring and audit mechanism. It should also improve the sports infrastructure and maintain the existing infrastructure. For example, the famed Barabati Stadium and Balewadi sports complex are being used for political functions and social functions like marriage.
For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, India can adopt a strategy of choosing 10 to 15 sports like badminton, hockey, gymnastics, archery, shooting in which the prospect of winning the medal is high. This should be backed by dedicated planning, monitoring, audit, supervision, quality training.
Government should encourage sporting culture in schools. If the government cannot afford to promote expensive games, it can at least promote low-cost games like walkathon, marathon. Volleyball, high jump, shot-put, wrestling, boxing, handball etc.
Government should realize that economic growth has no meaning unless there is physical and mental growth of the young population.

Question for UPSC Mains:
India’s standard in sports has been declining over the years and there is a need for immediate reform and sound strategy to perform in the upcoming events like 2020 Olympics. What ails sports sector? Discuss while suggesting appropriate government strategy.

Published: March 5, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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