The best-ever medal haul in Indian Olympic history was just the impetus sport needed as we ready to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Sponsors, even if they are very few outside cricket, have provided a silver lining. Also, there has been an initiative from players past and present to overhaul the sport culture in the country and with cricket joining hands with the sports ministry, there is hope for the likes of Mangal Singh Champia and Tintu Luka, who, from humble backgrounds, have dared to dream big.
The Mittal Champions Trust, the Olympic Gold Quest Sports Foundation, the Apollo Tyres’ Mission 2018, the NIIT Mind Champion Academy, the Board of Control for Cricket in India and its joint-venture with the Union sports ministry called the National Sports Development Fund are all part of this endeavour whose cumulative effect is beginning to show.
The Mittal Trust, started in November 2005 with funds worth of $10 million and with an eye on a 2012 London Olympics gold, had a contingent of 12 at Beijing. A gold from Abhinav Bindra, signed by the trust in 2006, four years in advance has necessitated a resetting of target. “Beijing was a learning experience for me too,” Manisha Malhotra, administrator of the trust, which supports around 40 sportspersons, said. “Abhinav’s gold has forced us to aim higher in London. Everyone will have to work harder.”
Looking ahead to the Commonwealth Games, the BCCI, following a request from the sports ministry, has decided to bolster its support. “The BCCI had initially allotted Rs 25 crore for the development of other sport and the ministry pumped in an equal amount to make a corpus of Rs 50 crore. Now, we have increased the amount to Rs 50 crore and the ministry will give Rs 30 crore for a reserve of Rs 80 crore over the next three years leading to the Commonwealth Games,” Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI’s CAO said.
An amount of Rs 5.34 crore was spent from the BCCI fund on preparing members of the Beijing-bound squad, Shetty said. Just before the Beijing Games, Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone set up the Olympic Gold Quest Sports Foundation and signed shooter Gagan Narang till the London 2012. It is also funding 19-year-old middle-distance runner Luka who is training at the Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy for the past six years. The Apollo Tyres’ Mission 2018, which launched a Rs 100 crore programme over the next 10 years targeting children between six to 14 years with the aim of producing a singles Grand Slam tournament champion, involves technical and infrastructure support from Mahesh Bhupathi and his tennis academy.