NEW DELHI: With the Rio Olympics slated for August 2016, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports’ key scheme Target Olympic Podium (TOP) to fund training of promising sportspersons is slowly picking up pace. The scheme aims to provide world-class training facilities to potential medal winners for the Rio Olympics.
The ministry said names of 106 athletes have been approved under the scheme. Of these, 90 have agreed to join the programme and 56 have been sanctioned Rs 6.22 crore. According to official figures, 84 athletes have signed the contract after initial hesitation citing stringent clauses about getting private sponsorship, which since then have been eased. The estimated budget for the scheme is Rs 40 crore.
Athletes who have received assistance under the scheme are Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling); Saina Nehwal (badminton); Abhinav Bindra, Heena Siddhu and Manavjit Sandhu (shooting); Vikas Gowda and Inderjit Singh (athletics); Deepika Kumari (archery); Mary Kom and Sarita Devi (boxing); H N Girisha, Sharad Kumar and Deepa Malik (para-sports).
Six more sportspersons have agreed to join, but have not submitted their contract. These include badminton players Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who had castigated the ministry earlier this year for not including their names in the scheme. Others yet to join are Debashree Majumdar, Jauna Murmu (400 m relay), Apurvi Chandela (shooting) and Narsingh Pancham Yadav (wrestling). Athletes who have signed the contract but are yet to give their requirement for assistance include Leander Paes, P V Sindhu, Snehal Divakar and Manna Patel.
Of the total 106 approved, 16 have “not responded” to the offer. Sources said though they have not given any reason, some of the clauses of the government contract did not appeal to them. They include Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar (shooting), Dipa Karmakar (vault) and women relay team members Priyanka Pawar, Tintu Luka, M R Poovamma, Anilda Thomas, Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose, Mandeep Kaur, Chavi Sharawat, Anju Thomas, Nirmala, Arpitha, Jisna Mathew. Boxer Vijender Singh, whose name was also approved, has since then left competitive sports for professional sports.
The scheme’s woes compounded after the chairman of the selection committee, Anurag Thakur, resigned last week citing his engagements as secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Shooter Abhinav Bindra, who was part of the identification committee, excused himself from it to focus on his game.
After the last meeting to review the scheme’s progress, the ministry said it would reconstitute the selection committee. The scheme has now been transferred to the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
According to the main features of the contract to be signed by athletes with SAI, they have to indicate their choice of coach and nature of assistance. They will wear the logo of the scheme and sponsorship partners on the training jersey and participate in events organised by the government. Another contentious clause was that athletes could not accept private sponsorship. After many objected, they were allowed to do so but with prior permission from SAI.