With Paris Olympics scheduled in August 2024, what areyour thoughts on the preparations of the Indian Team. What medal count Indiacan expect this time ?

We havewhole heartedly supported our athletes to secure qualification and prepare well for Paris 2024.While we do not have a particular number in mind, I am confident that our athletes will come home with India’s best haul in an Olympic Games. Our athletes are fearless and compete on equal terms with the best in the world.We have left no stone unturned in ensuring that maximum Indian athletes qualify for the Paris Olympic Games and are well prepared. More than 350 foreign exposure trips for training and competitions were sanctioned in select Olympic disciplines in this Olympic cycle. It has encouraged the athletes to be ready to deliver their best performances without facing the pressure of expectation. 

What is the qualification scenario right now ?

As of now, 58 of our athletes have qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. For the first time, both the men’s and women’s Table Tennis teams have earned places in the Olympic Games draw. Similarly, India has won a quota each in women’s Skeet Shooting and in Equestrian (Dressage) for the first time.

What has changed over the years in Government’s approachto sports development ?

Prime Minister NarendraModi has always motivated athletes to compete fearlessly in keeping with the brave new India that is emerging as a world leader in many areas.One of the most important things that has changed since Rio is the ease of business for the athletes. Their proposals for training and competition are cleared faster than ever before, sometimes even in the matter of hours. Ministry and National Sports Federations have begun the process of identifying disciplines and events in which India can develop medal-winning potential beyond those which have already delivered results on the global stage and can get better. We have encouraged sports like cycling and swimming which offer many medals to step up and contribute to the tally.

What about funding ?How much money has the Government been spending on sports development ?

As for investment, suffice to say that the Government has enhanced the size of the Ministry’s budget three times in the past decade from Rs 1,093 crores in 2013-14 toRs 3397.32 crores in 2023-24 and the right support at the right time is being extended to athletes. Besidesthe government budgetary support, corporate and private investments in sports through CSR funds have also contributed to the evolution of Indian sport.

Government seems to have invested a lot in Khelo India. Has it produced the desired results?

Of course, the Khelo India Scheme has delivered results. It is not just a scheme, it has become a nationwide movement.One of the majorobjectives of Khelo India istalent identification and development throughstructured training.We currently support over 2800 athletes who are given an annual scholarship of Rs 6.28 lakhs to support their training, boarding, lodging, out-of-pocket allowance for their own expenses. Every year new athletes are added to this scheme and there is a constant monitoring of performance which ensures that regular weeding out also takes place.

Can you throw some light on the sports infrastructure development in recent years?

The backbone of any sports ecosystem is infrastructure, both in terms of facilities and human resources. There is a need to take modern sports facilities to the doorstep of the grassroots talent as it will ensure that athletes are nurtured closer home than away.Just for creation and upgradation of sports infrastructure, Rs 1,879 croreshave been allocated till 2024-25 by the Ministry of Finance. It is our endeavor to optimally use sports infrastructure belonging to States/UTs through suitable Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).Provision of maximum funding to the State Centres of Excellence and Khelo India Centres is being done for priority sport selected by the State under the “One State, One Game” initiative.

The Prime Minister has also spoken about hosting the Youth Olympics in 2030. What is the plan regarding that? Has any city been identified?

Yes, we are eager to host the Youth Olympic Games in 2030 ahead of the Summer Olympics in 2036. However, we are at the planning stage right now and initial discussions are going on. We will plan as per the requirements of the International Olympic Committee and the conversations with the Future Hosts Commission have been positive.

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