With every disappointing performance of India at the Olympics, there are talks on the lack of sporting culture in our country. The absence of world-class infrastructure is often attributed as the number one reason behind our terrible performance. On the other hand, large stadiums and other sports-venues in big Indian cities are facing trouble due to under-utilization.
That said, sporting culture is in fact witnessing a transformation in India as a variety of sports gain importance, and health and fitness concerns begin to take precedence. However, high quality infrastructure continues to remain a concern.
Sporting Infrastructure – The Bottom-Up Approach
It is given that for the purpose of achieving global excellence, a high quality sporting infrastructure is a must. Not only does this aid in producing sportsperson that meet international standards, but it also encourages the youth of India to get involved in sporting activities, subsequently creating a culture of sports. It even opens doors to hosting international events such as world cups, the Common Wealth Games and the Olympics.
Authorities increasingly believe that the best way to improve sporting infrastructure on the whole is to start at the grass-root level. The Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA) Scheme is one of the many that the government has introduced for just this. Since 1982, when India was given the honor of hosting the Asian Games for the second time, a significant increase in fund allocation to sports has been observed in various five-year plans. For instance, over the years, a Scheme of Grants for Creation of Sports Infrastructure including Rural Schools, for which INR 942.5 million was allocated. INR 201.3 million was allocated for the installation of playing surfaces and INR 328 million was allocated for promotion of sports and games in universities and colleges.
However, support from the central government eventually withdrew, resulting in added obstacles. The lack of availability of affordable land for building sporting infrastructure is another issue India faces.
Developing sports infrastructure in India may seem like a lost cause, but the following steps are often recommended to transform the current sorry state –
- Creation of a dedicated land bank to build only sporting infrastructure.
- To use the PP model where the government can offer financial and institutional support while the private sector manages and maintains the operations of the sporting facility in question.
- Leverage commercial elements such as selling hospitality packages, naming rights, branding inside stadiums, etc., so that the facilities are self-sustainable.
- Lend out these facilities for conferences, exhibitions or to set up sports academies when the season is off.
- Open up the infrastructure to the public for use as a membership fee.
It is about time that India rises above the allegations of corruption and mismanagement that came to light during the 2010 Common Wealth Games in India. By combining public interest with political will, channeling investments towards the growth of sporting infrastructure will open doors to economic and cultural growth in India.