Last week in Parliament during the zero hour intervention, I urged the government to bid for the Youth Olympic Games in 2022. Much to my surprise, I was greeted with criticisms by citizens on social media expressing their apprehensions and doubts about the proposal I initiated in the august house of the Lok Sabha.
Clearly, the ghost of the ill-fated Commonwealth Games during 2010 lingers on and unfortunately people have subjected themselves to negativity with respect to our country’s ability to host multi sport events.
This is an ideal time for a country with the world’s largest youth population of 35.6 crore in the age group of 10-24 years to bid for and host the Youth Olympics. Apparently, India is the world’s epicentre of youthful exuberance that will be sustained for a very long time to come. We must constantly endeavour if every youngster is to be strengthened and guide them towards making positive contributions to India’s growth story. This should be seen in the context where in India sports culture is yet to be imbibed by the majority of the youth population. It is imperative that India should not be deprived of an opportunity to host such prominent events dedicated to the youth.
The Youth Olympic Games is a marquee event for teenagers aged from 15 to 18 organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) covering 28 disciplines. They aim to bring together talented youngsters from all over the world. Singapore was the first city to host Youth Olympic Games in 2010 followed by Nanjing in China during 2014 that witnessed participation of teenagers from 203 nations. Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina will be hosting Youth Olympic Games in 2018. In fact, Indian teenagers competed at both the 2010 and 2014 editions by winning eight and two medals respectively in wrestling, badminton, tennis, athletics, boxing, archery and weightlifting.
It is a matter of immense pride for youngsters – whose unbridled enthusiasm for football is well known – that India will be hosting the prestigious under-17 FIFA World Cup in 2017 where matches will be held in Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Assam Goa and Kerala. This is a golden opportunity for the government to redeem the faith of the sports lovers to make the World Cup a grand success.
In the similar vein, the government must also strive to bid for the Youth Olympic Games during the year 2022. The government must align the objectives of the National Youth Policy formulated in 2014 with planning, organising and conducting notable quadrennial sports events such as Youth Olympics in India.
It is worth mentioning that China’s success in sports is attributed to a very successful grassroots programme. Athletics, swimming and gymnastics are compulsory games for Chinese students in schools. On attaining the age of 13 years, three crore children identified and trained by 450,000 physical trainers are selected for specialisation and in the end 9000 children are short listed for super-specialisation.
The government should simultaneously use the Youth Olympic Games as a platform to identify talent, improve accessibility to sports facilities for teenagers and promote a vibrant sports culture amongst youth in India by embracing similar strategy adopted by China, with required adaptations in our country as opposed to the dreary physical education classes in schools where sports is mostly used as an excuse to spend 45 minutes of time in school playgrounds and physical education teachers lack discipline and fitness to instill positive spirit of sports and a sense of adventurism in the minds of school children. It is noteworthy that majority of medalists in Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Olympics are from rural areas and small towns. There is untapped potential of vast sporting talent emanating from rural areas. Moreover, deeper inroads can be made for providing universal access to sports in rural areas as well as harnessing available and potential sporting talent among rural youth starting from the block level. In a very structured manner, sports talent in the rural hinterlands can be nurtured in every conceivable way.
Investment in sports infrastructure and coaching facilities will enormously improve the representation of Indian sportspersons in international competitions in near future. This will enable youth to view sports not only as a recreational activity but also as a potential attractive career option. In other words, youngsters will strive to be an entrepreneur, a professional, a specialist or a practitioner, but they might also want to be a successful sportsperson.
Apart from the field of play, the Cultural and Education programme of Youth Olympics is based around the themes of social responsibility, skills development, team building and facilitating cross-cultural interactions among the participating athletes so that they can become true ambassadors of their sport.
The Olympic Games must not be an end in itself; they must be a means of creating a vast program of physical education, sports competitions for all young people as well as gradually inculcate the positive spirit of vibrant sports culture in India thereby boosting India’s soft power.
Post the Commonwealth Games fiasco in 2010, there was a sense of despondency and cynicism over India’s ability to host prestigious quadrennial events which involves huge expenditure and upgradation of infrastructure for athletes. The 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi was marred by corruption, administrative inefficiency, unpreparedness and delays in the construction of main venues due to dilatory approach of the organisers and the UPA Government. Regardless of the past, there is a need to regain the lost faith and I firmly believe that the
Government will learn from the previous mistakes and dedicate themselves to bid towards hosting the Youth Olympics in 2022 or any other similar multi-sport event in the near future. It is time that India carves out a definite road map, puts its best foot forward by bidding for the Youth Olympic Games and cultivates a generation of Olympians from now onwards by investing in sports effectively. Shockingly, India is the only nation amongst BRICS block never to have hosted a major sports event such as FIFA World Cup or Olympic Games. It is time that India claims its rightful entitlement to host such events. Hence, hosting Youth Olympics should be seen as the first step towards achieving that ultimate objective.