KOCHI: The embers of Rio Olympics are slowly fading, leaving traces of ashes and residue. One such commodity is money spent on each athlete under various schemes of the sports ministry. Unlike earlier Olympics, the Indian government did not give any of its athletes a chance to complain about the lack of funds, even if there were issues regarding the timing of the release. The ministry spent around `38 crore through Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), but there seems to be some disparity in the allotment of funds.
Take, for instance, the inimitable Dipa Karmakar, who finished fourth in vault at the Rio Games. She got only `12.98 lakh. Compare this with shot putter Inderjeet Singh, who failed a dope test just before the Games. He got `46.5 lakh (`33.4 lakh from TOPS and `13.27 lakh from Annual Calendar of Training and Competitions (ACTC)).
The ministry’s argument was that whosoever qualified for the Games and wanted funds to prepare, needed to give an outline of their training programme with fund requirements. Some went abroad while some spent on fitness and rehabilitation. But Dipa and coach Bisweswar Nandi preferred to stay and train in India.
The difference is starker if we look at shooters. Because of expensive equipment and ammunition, Abhinav Bindra and Manavjeet Singh Sandhu got over a crore under TOPS. Manavjeet did not qualify for the final in trap, whereas Bindra missed a medal by a whisker in 10m air rifle.
If we consider ACTC money then some of the athletes were given a substantial amount. MR Poovamma, who was part of the 4x400m women’s relay got close to a crore (`16.53 lakh from TOPS and `75.90 lakh from ACTC). ACTC money goes to the federation to take care of the expenses incurred by each athlete for competition and training. It takes care of their food and travel when they go to compete at Asian or other regional competitions.
Dipa’s coach Nandi, however, was happy with the money. “I am afraid of money and have taught Dipa the same. Too much money is dangerous. For her preparation for Rio, Dipa required around `12 lakh and we asked for the same under TOP Scheme. We were given the money and of that cash we spent almost `6.5 lakh to buy a treatment machine and have kept it at the Sports Authority of India. We are happy with the money we got for training and that’s it.” An official associated with the TOP scheme told Express everything was done according to the wishes of the athletes. “We disbursed the amount according to the proposals submitted by the athletes. Initially, the ministry was distributing 60 per cent but after the athletes complained, 90 per cent of the funds were released,” said the official.
With inputs from Indraneel Das in Chennai.