Playing Big: A Recurring Theme of the Flagship Programme
It’s an exciting time for sports in India. India has always had a promising and large pool of sporting talent. What was needed was modifying the existing policies and bringing newer ones that match their needs and aspirations. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Government is in mission mode to transform the sports landscape of the country by focusing on grassroots-level talent identification, sports infrastructure building, support to elite athletes, and creating an ecosystem that provides equal opportunities to women, divyangjan, and youth from even the remotest corners of the country. The success stories as well the stories of grit, struggle and determination of multiple sportspersons, of every age group, have found a place in the Prime Minister’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ and the hearts of the nation.
Khelo India has been a game changer. In fact, Khelo India Games have become like the mini-Olympics of India. The incentive of being recognised at the national level has given the impetus to not only the young athletes but also to individual States to develop their own robust sporting infrastructure. Apart from the development of an overall sports culture in the country, the personal interest that the Prime Minister takes in knowing every athlete and their progress is also something that was never seen before in our country. He makes it a point to interact with the Indian contingent before the final send off and after an international tournament/sporting event, and motivate and congratulate them on their success or sincere efforts.
The Prime Minister also talks a lot about sports in his monthly radio programme, ‘Mann ki Baat’. In the past, the newspaper was the only medium to get any information about the sports achievers of our country, but now even before they head for the international tournaments, we are celebrating them. Be it the Commonwealth or Olympics-bound Indian contingent or the youth taking part in the Khelo India Games, ‘Mann ki Baat’ has become a platform where the country’s achievements on the sports front are brought to light. And today, when ‘Mann ki Baat’ is going to hit its century-mark on April 30, 2023, I am sure that all its episodes, all through these years, have worked as an inspiration for the athletes to hone their talent and build a future in sports.
When I had won the first medal for the World Championship, my fellow athlete who had also won a medal had got a call from the head of her country which was being projected on the stadium screens. And I was wondering when I would get a similar opportunity. In that sense, today’s young athletes are really lucky that the Prime Minister is talking about them at such an important platform like ‘Mann ki Baat’. He also knows their personal interests well, and is giving them grand send overs and felicitating them when they come back. The entire India is watching this, especially the younger generation.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed on the fact that sports do not stop short at winning medals and putting India on the global map. What it primarily brings to the table is development of individual personalities by making us physically fit, mentally alert, and nurturing sportsmanship. Sports, as a whole, holds much importance for the development of a nation. Gone are the days when people used to follow only cricket. Today, there is a huge national pride attached to India’s participation in every international sporting event. Be it badminton, javelin throw, handball, or fencing, and even indigenous sports like Mallakhamb and Kalaripayattu, people today are united in their appreciation for the sportspersons who are waiving the tricolour high all around the world.
Just before the Olympics 2020, the Prime Minister urged the listeners of ‘Mann ki Baat’ to support the Tokyo-bound athletes with #Cheer4India, which subsequently transformed into a campaign, witnessing participation from school students to celebrities who sent their wishes for the athletes. It is interesting to see the different ways that we are finding as a country to celebrate our sportspersons. This momentum on the sports front is unprecedented for India and I am grateful to the Prime Minister for injecting a renewed vigour into sports.
The results are there for all to see. With seven medals in the Tokyo Olympics and 19 in the Paralympics, India performed its best in four decades. India recorded one of its best performances at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham with a total of 61 medals, including 22 Gold medals. For the first time in the history of the prestigious international Thomas Cup (badminton) tournament, the Indian men’s team won the championship by defeating the 14-time World Champion Indonesia. The Indian contingent for Deaflympics Brazil gave the best-ever performance for the country with 16 medals. Young talent is performing tremendously well, and the entire nation is enjoying their victories.
‘Mann ki Baat’ as a platform has inspired among the citizens, especially the youth, a collective enthusiasm towards sports in the country. In multiple episodes of ‘Mann ki Baat’, the Prime Minister has appealed directly to the younger generation to make sports a crucial part of their lives. Through his radio programme, he has instilled a feeling of Sabka Prayas to make sports an important aspect for India’s holistic development, and together the people, the Governments, athletes and associations are striving to make this vision a reality of the New India. I am looking forward to the upcoming 100th episode of Mann Ki Baat and to hear our Prime Minister inspire, encourage and talk of ordinary people who have made huge difference in the life of others.
The writer is an Indian Olympian and the Vice President of Athletics Federation of India. Views expressed are personal.
Author: Anju Bobby George
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