Gold state

While India’s performance in the Commonwealth Games, with an unprecedented 101-medal tally and the second position among the participants, has been widely recognised and commented on, a remarkable aspect of the achievement was that a good part of the credit for it should go to a single state. Sportsmen and women from Haryana, which accounts for less than 2 per cent of the country’s population and about one-and-a-half per cent of its area, have won 40 per cent of the country’s gold medals. They won 15 gold medals of the country’s 38, and four silver and eight bronze medals, altogether securing 27 of the country’s 101 medals. The number of sportspersons from the state was 54, less than one-tenth of the over 600-strong Indian contingent. The share of Haryana in the Indian tally in the 2006 Melbourne Games was one gold and four other medals.

The sudden improvement in the performance of sportspersons from the state is the result of a sports promotion policy which it has earnestly implemented. It has more than doubled its budget for sports and youth affairs in the last five years and implemented a policy of incentives and encouragement from the school level. Students are encouraged to play at least one game under a programme called Play for India. All games, from kabadi to table tennis, get their due. Infrastructure and training facilities have been developed at different levels like the district and the taluk. Three per cent of Group C and D government jobs have been reserved for sportspersons and increments and promotions are offered for achievers. Boxing academies and panchayats came forward to train boxers and wrestlers. Haryana is also planning to set up human performance labs in all districts, recruit foreign coaches and set up a sports university.

All this changed the sports culture in the state in a short span of time. It is generally considered that plans to enhance sports performance take a long time to show results. Haryana adopted a revised sports policy only last year. The dramatic improvement in the results shown by the state in the last few years should provide a lesson to all other states. It shows that if a sports-friendly environment  is created, funds and facilities are made available, attractive incentives are offered, and the message of all this goes to the level of even the small village, there is no long incubation period for excellence.

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