India need more people to take up sports for bigger Olympic success: Abhinav Bindra
Abhinav Bindra feels that investment in just top level athletes will not suffice for Indian sports.
Abhinav Bindra reckons that investing in just elite athletes will not make India a sporting superpower and if the country aspires to take its medals tally to double digits in the Olympics, more people need to enter the playing arenas and sport should not be looked at from the narrow prism of high performance. India's top athletes have been receiving tremendous financial support from the government and corporate houses, of late, and the results have only got better as elite athletes get to train abroad and they now work with best support staff.
Bindra said the investment in just top level athletes will not suffice. "If you want to get to 50 (Olympic medals), it is not just going to be pumping money into the elite (athletes). It is only going to be a very small percentage of your population that is going to get involved in sports, so you need more people to play," Bindra said during the RCB Innovation Lab Leaders Meet here.
Bindra, the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist in 10m air rifle, added that India was at a juncture where sport must become a mass movement now. "The by-product of that hopefully will be that more people will be involved in sport. So I believe that the shift in perspective needs to happen and it needs to happen now."
The former world champion also said that for India to become a sporting nation, a "sustainable" and "thriving ecosystem" should be created where sport is not judged from the narrow lens of high performance. "What I would really like to see India as a country is to start looking at sport more holistically and not singularly from the prism of high performance.
"It is a very narrow view and if you only look at it from a high-performance perspective, it will be very challenging to make that next leap from seven Olympic medals in Tokyo," he said.
India had its best-ever tally at the 2022 Tokyo Olympics, where it returned home with seven medals, including a gold in javelin throw from Neeraj Chopra. Bindra, 41, added that more that just celebrating India's success in major events, if the country could celebrate sports, it could bring about the "real change" in the ecosystem.
"Giving more opportunities to young people to simply enjoy sport is that to me an important element that has to be developed for the whole Olympic project. The number two point is developing an economy for the future. The whole country needs to be involved in not just celebrating Indian success but also celebrating sports.
"If you have that larger goal in mind and you have this more holistic thought process in mind, I think you come up with an interesting project that will not just be limited to the two weeks of sports, but to how the Olympic Games can truly be the driver for real change," he said referring to India's endeavour towards hosting 2036 Olympic Games.
On RCB Innovation Lab creating a platform for a dialogue on sports, Bindra said, "Event like these bring experts from all over the world to ideate, which in turn make one aware of the "newest global trends, and opportunities that exist".