Thirteen years after he gave India the concept of a sports day, Balendra Mohan Chakrabarty has given shape to an athletics academy that would train 10-11 year-olds free of cost.
Fifty-something Chakrabarty is no athlete, nor a sports administrator. He wanted to be a sprinter but ended up as a printer, publisher and editor of the Northeast’s oldest sports magazine, Abhiruchi. His passion for sports saw him organising the country’s first sports day in 1984. Since then, 104 Abhiruchi sports centres across Assam have made almost everyone from 6 to 60 run on September 3 every year.
“What began as a celebration of Bhogeswar Barua’s birthday became a state-wide function,” says Chakrabarty.
Barua, the 1966 Bangkok Asiad gold medallist, was incidentally the first Indian sportsperson to have his birthday celebrated as a public function. Two years after the first Abhiruchi Sports Day, the government declared hockey wizard Dhyanchand’s birthday as the National Sports Day.
Chakrabarty, though, had begun his crusade for Barua’s due recognition after the 1982 Delhi Asiad. His campaign made the ONGC elevate Barua from a driver to Regional Sports Officer.
“Organising a sports day every year is a lot of fun with the state government issuing notices to schools for participation,” says Chakrabarty. “We needed to do much more than that to ensure an assembly line of Bhogeswar Baruas from talented youngsters who fizzle out for lack of opportunity.”
It was precisely the reason why Chakrabarty and his team, including Barua, decided to open an Athletics Academy that would provide training. “All our centres have undertaken the talent hunt process. We have also lined up SAI coaches for their perfect grooming,” Chakrabarty says.