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One gold isn’t enough Viewpoint by Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director, Percept Limited
7 October, 2008

The Beijing Olympic Games was a fantastic show the Chinese put up for the world despite all the negative PR it got from some sections of the media. The hosts put up a spectacle that London and future Games hosts will aim to emulate. It was a proud moment for India when we won one gold and two bronze medals. But is this enough? Is this all that we can expect from a nation that has a population of over a billion? Every four years when these Games come around, we look back and reflect on what we can do better. Then the excitement and vigour die out and we get back to our lives as usual.

What does it take to make India a sporting nation? Our people are interested in sports — and not just cricket. There are people who are good at kabaddi, hockey, tennis, billiards, golf, athletics, boxing, wrestling, badminton and so many other sports. But, sometimes, mere talent is not enough. Sportspersons need the support, training, infrastructure, encouragement and money to ensure that they can concentrate on a full-time career in sports and earn a livelihood from it. It is up to us to create this change — the government, corporate houses, marketers, sports channels, the media, talent managers and trainers. It takes effort from all these entities to ensure that we can nurture a sporting culture in the country. 

Unfortunately, each of us ends up pointing fingers at someone else, when in reality we should start looking within. We have the Commonwealth Games coming up in 2010 in Delhi. But the host city doesn’t seem to be ready for it as yet. China took about seven years to prepare for the Beijing Olympics. In India, the most ambitious project — the state-of-theart Commonwealth Games Village — is being built by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on the east bank of the Yamuna and will supposedly be handed over to the Games organising committee by September 2009. Besides the DDA and the city government, the Central Public Works Department has been entrusted with the task of renovating and repairing all the big stadiums.

The airport, flyovers, the metro rail, the bus transport system — every aspect that contributes towards making the Games a success — seem to make limited progress. It may yet be completed and we may yet pull off the most amazing Games ever. But the point is that it requires a Commonwealth Games to get our infrastructure back in shape. What after the Commonwealth? Has anybody thought about it? How will the stadiums be used? Who will be responsible for their maintenance? These are questions that need to be answered. 
We must get over living in the glory of the moment and start looking at sustainable sporting models. If the government provides infrastructure, talented sportspersons will be encouraged to use them and perform to the best of their capabilities. And if they perform, corporates, brands, talent managers and marketers will bet their money on them. This in turn gives an opportunity for trainers; the stadiums that are unused after a mega event can be used for regular sporting events rather than weddings.

There can be an IPL-like wave in other sporting events. Just imagine a huge stadium where you have Indians from different states competing for the 100m sprint with music blaring in the background, a jam-packed stadium with celluloid celebrities and fans — with the sports minister present rooting enthusiastically for the contenders. It’s an idea that we can accomplish if we all believe in it and come together to make it happen.

With the Commonwealth Games coming up and India’s current high of the three Olympic medals, we have a window of opportunity to start afresh and start something that future generations will be proud of. Let’s take the first step towards creating a culture of sport in our society where cricket seems to be the only religion. The groundwork must start here and now.