Olympics bid will turn India into a sports hub
India must make sport and physical activity a national imperative, and bidding for the 2036 Olympics can act as a beacon.
India is at the cusp of becoming a sports-forward nation, a vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he announced the country’s candidature to be a Summer Olympics and Paralympics host nation in 2036. It is a vision that brings with it both opportunity and responsibility to make India the world’s leading nation in sports.
We showcased our ability and global leadership to the world at the recent G20 Summit. We can host a global event like the Olympics successfully, and sustainably. Indian sportspersons have also been outstanding on the international stage. In addition to our spectacular performance at home in the Cricket World Cup where our team made the entire country proud, our performances in the Asian Games and Asian Para Games were extraordinary with hauls of over 100 medals at each of these prestigious events — a first in both cases.
There are several reasons why an Olympics bid makes eminent sense for India in 2036. We must imbibe the successes of our G20 presidency and ensure we have a strong legacy plan that allows universalising access to sports and physical activity with a specific focus on women empowerment, youth playing a sport, and persons with disabilities having the opportunity to access and use public spaces for being physically active. India emerging as one of the top sporting nations by 2047, when India turns 100, is a more than realistic goal.
India now is an elite sports contender across several disciplines. There has been an increase in focus and outcomes for prioritising sport for development policy. Suitable amendments to the corporate social responsibility framework to expand the scope of sports development initiatives, including investments in physical activity like yoga, policies around increasing open fields for participation and universalising access to them, and putting in place guidelines to ensure safe spaces will be critical.
Equally critical will be the need to address urban planning that is walking and cycling friendly, has ample amounts of fields and open green spaces, and allows for safety in access and participation, including free play, open gymnasiums and yoga spaces. Incentivising access to existing infrastructure is another important intervention. Using technology to enhance inclusion and wider dissemination in sports participation is an area India is uniquely positioned to optimise. We should focus on supporting such innovations as digital public goods as well as private sector initiatives that enable access to sport and sports participation. Lastly, it will be important to build scalable frameworks that systematise livelihoods for sportspersons who may not have reached the international level but can be employed in the sports and activity ecosystem as full-time professionals.
As part of hosting the Olympics, it will be important to focus on the legacy planning that can enable a lasting framework for participation. Brisbane 2032 for example, has announced its Elevate 2042 plan, which entails six key heads that include among others, creating a “barrier-free society for people with disability”, a focus on the economy, jobs and innovation, sport, health and social inclusion. Paris 2024 is introducing a daily 30-minute exercise period in the curriculum of French primary schools and aims to reach 4.2 million students across the country.
India must make sport and physical activity a national imperative, and bidding for the 2036 Olympics can act as a beacon. In terms of hosting, we have hosted the 2023 Chess Olympiad, with nearly 190 countries participating, this year’s men’s Hockey World Cup, FIFA Football Under-17 World Cups in 2017, and several others, including our global prominence in hosting cricket events. Also, mass participation events like marathons routinely have more than 30,000 participants across the country.
Over the years we have developed a sophisticated talent identification and support programme called the Target Olympic Podium Scheme or TOPS, which supports outstanding athletes. Having talented athletes be supported by our ecosystem will help enhance livelihoods as well as be a source of pride for us as a nation. Already, we are seeing athletes like Neeraj Chopra and PV Sindhu become huge brands, and the example of kabaddi player Pawan Sehrawat being chosen for ₹2.26 crore in the Pro Kabbadi League auction is emblematic of what is possible. The G20 presidency saw us host events in more than 60 cities involving over 15 million people. This showcased our organising capacity, India’s position as a tourism and infrastructure powerhouse, and our ability to seamlessly accomplish complicated logistics throughout the year. India is poised to be the centre of the sports universe by 2047.
Amitabh Kant is India’s G20 Sherpa and ex-CEO, NITI Aayog. The views expressed are personal