A spark is what is needed to fuel a budding athlete’s desire to make it big on the international stage. And a flash is needed for India to fire its passion to go for glory at the Olympics.
The London Games was a landmark for the country and its sportspersons, in the sense that it has shown them the way to move forward and make an impa-ct in Rio four years from now.
But nothing would have been possible had a player answering to the name of MC Mary Kom not had the passion and role models to motivate her, or for the scores of Haryana athletes, who've got the right stimulus in the form of monetary incentives, or a certain Saina Nehwal, who got the best facilities to train in Hyderabad.
Talking about facilities, Saina has shown that a proper training venue, scientific backup and a coach par excellence can play a vital role in an athlete’s progress. The Gacchibowli complex is a shining example of what an integrated sports city should be like. A dream project of former Andhra chief minister, Chandrab-abu Naidu, it has brought top-notch international competition to the IT hub.
The Afro-Asian Games in 2003 put Hyderabad firmly on the sporting map. The Military World Games and World Badminton Championships only cemented Hyderabad's place as a sporting destination. Sania, Gagan Narang are an offshoot of that culture.
Mary Kom stands at a juncture where she can inspire womenfolk in her land to take up a sport as gruelling as boxing. When she started out, she too had a role model --- the affable 1998 Asian Games gold-medallist, boxer Dingko Singh.
Manipur is a place which might have primitive sporting paraphernalia, but it has sporting icons and a hunger fuelled by the absolute necessity to do well in order to make both ends meet.
There are limited options for those looking for a better life. And sport is one of the most rewarding ones. Lifter Kunjarani Devi, Dingko and a host of hockey players are shining examples of how not to get bogged down.
The Haryana story
The story of Haryana is unique. There have been occasions when one has wondered why the wome-n's hockey team is made up mostly of girls from Shahabad, or why the best boxers, including the likes of Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar and Jai Bhagwan, among others, come from Bhiwani.
The truth lies in the fact that since 2007, the Haryana government has linked good performance in sports to jobs. Today, 17 deputy superintendents of police, five inspectors and around 30 sub-inspectors are sportspersons.
Coming from humble backgrounds, these youngsters from small cities and villages look for a decent livelihood. And sport becomes a vehicle to earn decent jobs. In the last five years, job incentives have had a huge role to play in the development of sport in the state.
Besides, the cash awards given by Haryana are the highest in the country, and the tradition has been going on for more than a decade. Before Sydney 2000, the state government had announced R1 crore for a gold, setting a trend for other states to follow.
Governments may have chang-ed, but the tradition of holding sportspersons in high regard continues. This in turn fans public interest and one can see thousands, may be lakhs converging for public felicitations. Such is the importance of sport in some districts of Haryana that developmental work done here gets translated into votes.