In the wake of India’s disappointing show at the Rio Olympics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the setting up of a task force to prepare a comprehensive action plan for effective participation of our sportspersons in the next three Olympic games. The proposed task force, which will have experts from both India and abroad, will be entrusted with the responsibility of chalking out a strategy for building sports facilities, impart training and even selection procedures. This is a laudable move since Olympics is no child’s play and requires dedication and single-minded focus.
The task force will certainly come up with a strategy. Sure. But, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. What infrastructure do we have to encourage sportspersons? For that matter, what encouragement are we giving to children to take to sports seriously? An Express report on the state of affairs in schools in six southern states threw up startling facts. Nearly 30 per cent schools do not even have playgrounds. About 20 per cent of physical education teacher posts are vacant. And, sports related equipment is non-existent in most of the schools. The stark reality is that our schools do not take sports seriously. When translated into numbers, the vacant physical education teachers’ posts run into thousands. As for the budget allocated for sports in schools, the less said the better.
The respective State governments do have a budget for school education but in some States, there are no clear guidelines on how much has to be spent on promotion of sports. Schools are where talent can be spotted early and nurtured. If we want an Olympic medallist, we need to go back to our schools. We must link our school education system with sports and inculcate a robust sporting culture in our society. We will have a right to expect an Olympic medal only if we manage to do that and provide opportunities and necessary infrastructure to our children. Not otherwise.