Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar is not overwhelmed by any sense of defeat over India’s failed bid for hosting the Asian Games. He sees the debacle as an “opportunity to re-deploy the huge amount of money that will now be saved” on reaching organised games and sports facilities to about 72 crore young Indians.
<b1>“Our children, adolescents and youth have no such access at present,” Aiyar told the Hindustan Times. He said the important thing now was to concentrate on the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games and put in place a holistic programme of talent spotting and nurturing.
Known for his opposition to the Indian bid against which he spoke at a recent Cabinet meeting, the Minister had “absolutely nothing” to say on Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi’s reported remarks that India’s defeat was Aiyar’s victory.
Citing the Cuban model with which he got acquainted during a recent visit, the Sports Minister said the process should begin in elementary schools and “continue not only till the end of the careers of sports persons of excellence but beyond that to ensure social security for life for outstanding sportsmen.”
<b2>Aiyar said Cuba’s population was less than Delhi’s. But it has been among the 10 top performers since the 1976 Olympics, having moved from 31st position in overall medals tally in 1968 to 14th and 8th positions in 1972 and 1976 respectively. In the 1980 Moscow Olympics boycotted by the West, Cuba notched up the fourth spot.
“I guarantee that by following a similar policy, we can propel India to the top of the sporting nations of the world by
the 2012 London Olympics,” Aiyar remarked. The focus on hosting mega-sports events would be to the detriment of nurturing talent in the country’s villages, slums, forests and mountains. It will ensure nothing except stagnation in sports, he argued.