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We are prepared, can easily compete: Anurag Thakur on 2036 Olympic bid

The host of the Games will be decided by the International Olympic Committee's future host commission not before 2026 or 2027 as the IOC is due to elect a new president next year.
Last Updated : 11 May 2024, 13:25 IST
Last Updated : 11 May 2024, 13:25 IST

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Hamirpur: Bullish about India's chances of securing the 2036 Olympic hosting rights, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said the country has the capability to compete with other contenders in the bidding war among countries and rejected criticism that the money would be better spent on welfare schemes.

The host of the Games will be decided by the International Olympic Committee's future host commission but not before 2026 or 2027 as the IOC is due to elect a new president next year. India's ambitious interest has found support from current IOC head Thomas Bach, who believes the country has a 'strong case'.

"We are fully prepared. Very easily we can," Thakur asserted in an interview to PTI when asked whether India has what it takes to withstand the aggressive bidding war that is likely to ensue given that several countries like Poland, Indonesia, Mexico, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have either declared interest or are likely to join the race.

"Last year our capital expenditure was Rs 10 lakh crore, and a year before, it was Rs 7.5 lakh crore. This year it is Rs 11,11,111 crore. Sports infrastructure is hardly Rs 5,000 crore. Even if it goes up to Rs 20,000 crore, it can done," he said, down-playing the cost factor.

The government of India has started its preparations and it wants to make its case stronger by winning the hosting rights of the 2030 Youth Olympics. Plans are afoot to prepare Ahmedabad as the host city for both the showpieces.

Thakur, who took over the sports ministry from Kiren Rijiju in 2021, will be contesting the ongoing Lok Sabha polls from his family bastion Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh.

The 49-year-old said his confidence in India's bid comes from the rapid pace of growth in the country. He went on to list his government's achievements in infrastructure development.

"Today's India is ambitious and aspirational. Our road, rail infrastructure is growing by the day. We had 74 airports in 2014 and today we have 150. We had 96,000 km of road and now we have 1,50,000 km. Rural roads were 3,20,000 km and now it is 7,06,000 km."

"Railway lines have doubled to 40,000km. There are 706 medical colleges. We are also almost fully electrified There are now 1117 universities, up from 740. We had 16 IITs and the number has gone up to 24. We have 24 AIIMS, up from earlier seven."

"Look at these statistics. What Congress could not do in 60 years, Mr Modi has done in 10 years, so imagine where India would be by 2036," he pointed out.

The organisers of the Rio Games spent about $11.1 billion in conducting the 2016 edition while Tokyo ended up spending $12.9 billion for the 2020 Games.

When Thakur was asked about the view that the money can be better-utilised on welfare schemes, he said hosting the Games will have its own benefits for the poor and marginalised.

"I will give you an example. When IPL starts, it offered employment to so many people in these one-two months, not thousands but lakhs. It adds money to our economy. A country like India will benefit by hosting the Games."

"The Modi government is already doing a lot for the poor. It has already lifted 25 crore from multi dimensional poverty line. More facilities will be given to them to make them prosperous." The minister also expressed high hopes from the country's athletes for the upcoming Paris Games in July-August, saying, "We should get medals in double digits." "The way we have prepared, I believe we should get medals in double digits," he reiterated when asked whether India would be able to match or better its best ever tally of seven achieved in the Tokyo edition.

Thakur said a part of the credit for India's improving sporting performances goes to the government's flagship Khelo India initiative, which was launched in 2017 and gets a lion's share of budgetary allocation.

"Pehle kehte the padhoge likhoge banoge nawab, aur kheloge kudoge toh banoge kharab. Ab kehte hain padhoge likhoge banoge nawab, aur kheloge kudoge toh banoge laajawab (The old saying that getting into sports would spoil you has now been rephrased to say that playing sports will make you matchless)," he said.

"And Khelo India has created this pro sports environment. People now see career for their children in sports. The sports budget has gone up by three times. There are 1000 Khelo India centres now."

"There are 23 Centres of Excellence. TOPS scheme takes care of boarding lodging and training of athletes in the country as well as abroad. Rs 6 lakh is given as out of pocket allowance," he added.

However, Thakur, who is also a minister for Information and Broadcasting, is also well aware of the challenges facing Indian sports, a major one being doping. India is among the top dope offenders in the world.

The country was declared the second worst in a 10-year World Anti Doping Agency global study of dope violations by minors. Also, India registered the highest percentage of failed dope tests among countries which tested more than 2,000 samples in the 2022 Testing Figures.

Thakur put the onus on coaches and national federations to steer the athletes towards the correct path.

"We test way more now, more samples are tested and that is why there are more positive tests. Both off-line and online exposure and awareness has been carried out."

"Federations and coaches have to change their mindset. If they look at shortcuts for winning medals, it will only causes harm, athletes can lose their entire careers. They will have to look at proper ways," he asserted.

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Published 11 May 2024, 13:25 IST

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