With events in hockey and shooting engaging national attention over the past few days, it is but natural that I believe Commonwealth Games will usher in a sea change in Indian sport. Yes, I believe that one of the major spin-offs will be the introduction of professionalism in Indian sport.
I am determined to bring professionalism into Indian sport, not the least graded payments for our sportspersons. I know we do not have a magic wand to usher that overnight, given the fact that Olympic sport does not have the fan base that cricket and some other televised events like English Premiership, Formula One, NBA, professional tennis and golf tours now have.
Sport is getting increasingly professional around the world and competitive sport is no longer for those who take it up as a recreational activity. For us to keep pace with the rest of the world, we need to ensure that sport is seen as a viable career so that we have a number of sportspersons who can go out and conquer sporting pinnacles without having to worry about mere sustenance.
India Inc must step in a big way so that Indian sport can take off and achieve great heights in the coming years. I believe that by partnering India in its quest for success in the Olympic Games, corporates will gain tremendous mileage — more so when we achieve at the world level.
Indian sport is going to need the support of sports television channels to take up its cause in a big way so that our athletes become lasting heroes in the minds of our youth. Perhaps, we need to keep reinventing ourselves so that we create events that these channels can telecast on a regular basis.
We live in exciting times when new viewership mediums — cable, satellite, Internet, mobile phones, etc — have come in. We have to ensure that the sponsors can reap the rewards of a multi-channel approach in supporting our sportspersons not just to secure their own futures but also to inspire the younger generations with their heroics.
Given that sport can build character of the athlete and be a key catalyst in nation building, I believe there must be a strong public-private partnership to ensure that sport is a viable career option. I want to create a sporting culture that will not stop parents from letting their children see sport -— and its support professions — with confidence.
I am also hoping that the Government, which has earmarked around Rs 700 crore for training of Indian sportspersons for the Commonwealth Games, will continue to earmark similar funds so that all sport can flourish in our country.
It will allow us to introduce prize money at the National championships as well as group insurance so that players can be looked after in case of injury or illness during their playing careers — and after.
Indeed, I would love the Commonwealth Games to be remembered as a turning point in Indian sporting history when everyone in the wheel of sport would embrace a professional approach. I know we are on the cusp of making it a landmark in the annals of our sport. And am excited about it.