Ravi Chehel | 12th Sep 2022
Indian athletes have showcased some of the best performances on the field in 2021. Be it the Tokyo Olympics, World Championships, or the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. Till 2004, India only received one medal at the Olympics except for 1952 when it received two. Tokyo 2020 proved to be India’s most successful Olympics with seven medals. But for a nation of India’s size, it certainly has the potential to do more, much more.
It is critical for the country to start developing talent from the grassroots stage (Eight years or even younger). For this, access to sports infrastructure and quality coaching, which is tailored to each age category, is necessary. At the same time, sports need to be an integral part of child development and to also ensure a fit and healthy community, both physically and mentally. Early induction to sports helps a child’s cognitive development as well as personality traits like teamwork, perseverance, decision making and more. The same has recently been acknowledged by the Supreme Court wherein they have noted the importance of sports in keeping children away from electronic gadgets.
Recognising the challenge, the Indian government launched a program called ‘Khelo India’ (Play India) in January 2018. The intention of the ‘Khelo India’ programme is to build competition between states and build sporting talent. The idea of this programme is also to make sports accessible to each block in the country. Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), are the annual national-level multidisciplinary grassroot games in India held in January-February for two categories, under-17 school students and under-21 college students. Every year, the best 1,000 kids are given an annual scholarship of INR 5 lakhs (USD 6,600) for 8 years to prepare them for international sporting events. However, this effort, while commendable, needs extensive support. Access to sustainable infrastructure, both environmental and financial is crucial in achieving sporting excellence.
While India has world-class infrastructure for sports, with 179 large stadiums, this is largely available only in the big towns. Also, each state has its own set of favourite sports. Football is the most popular in the states of Kerala, Goa and many of the North-Eastern states. Haryana is known as a traditional powerhouse in sports like boxing and wrestling. Tamil Nadu has produced a range of world-class cricketers and more. Sports infrastructure is therefore, oriented towards the interest of players in the state and many times bundled up in certain areas. There is an additional challenge of underutilisation of infrastructure in many locations. In Delhi, several large stadiums are underutilised because they were built for large events and not necessarily to cater to local communities.
While the states of Haryana and Kerala have announced competitions to take sports deeper into the state’s ethos, the issue of infrastructure continues. Sports, therefore, needs a multi-layered approach, one that promotes a variety of sports at all levels and provides necessary infrastructure in various locations. Experts are of the opinion that if India wants to become a sporting nation, the country will have to invest heavily in building a modern infrastructure and a robust grassroots system. Therefore, this means that the USD 1.2 billion industry needs to be given an impetus through funds and infrastructure. While historically the focus has been on large stadiums, what we need now, is smaller sports infrastructural facilities that can become community hubs and become part of the local culture in villages and towns of all sizes. A pioneer in this approach is Jaipur that has 17 small sporting hubs where people from all walks of life can train, practice and compete.
Sports complexes and arenas need to be conveniently accessible to all at block level. This includes amateur, aspiring as well as professional athletes. Such infrastructure needs to be adaptable to multiple sports and also cater to the needs of everyone. It also needs to be optimally used, well-maintained and financially sustainable. This can only be achieved if the venue can seamlessly host sporting, recreational, food & beverage as well as business activities with minimal turnaround. Well-thought infrastructure with a sound business plan can help achieve this. Neighbourhood and family-oriented sports facilities can help in building talented athletes who can use such facilities to reach the national and international stage.
For long-term utilisation, maintenance and scalability, it is crucial to ensure that such sports centres are environmentally sustainable as well as commercially viable, across its asset lifecycle. For this, a hyperlocal approach needs to be followed wherein the needs of the community are identified in order to plan for a variety of sports being included, area allocated, and support facilities created. Proper business planning through experts and organisations supported by market studies should be a mandatory first step. At the same time, there should be a cohesive strategy to keep costs down. Use of SMART solutions and technology is also crucial to achieve this.
Innovative and well-structured PPP models, adapted to the specific needs of the community can be a significant step in this regard. As seen in case of airports, private investments can transform sports infrastructure. Initially, government handholding through a proactive approach will be greatly beneficial to create such proofs of concept. As we see in commercially viable models, such infrastructure will unlock the vast potential of foreign funds and support.
Such facilities need to be flexible systems which can seamlessly switch between various needs of the community, catering to such diverse requirements simultaneously, with minimal lead time and cost. To ensure commercial viability, the sports centre must be relevant to all members of the family to become a place for recreation, networking and local events in addition to catering to the requirements of professional athletes.
These include requirements for:
Most countries in Europe have a strong sporting culture and sports infrastructure in schools and local communities. This is also factored into new housing developments that come up. The EU realises that sports contribute to a healthy lifestyle and good health and therefore, has made this a part of urban planning, urban design and government support. India and EU can collaborate in many ways to build the sports ecosystem in India.
EBTC has curated the Europe-India Sports Cluster with select companies from both regions who have relevant technologies, solutions and expertise. The cluster provides a unique platform to drive thought leadership and co-create projects. As leaders in innovation and technology in their respective domains, the Cluster members from Europe provide a mix of global expertise and knowledge. This is coupled with local renowned players who have a deep understanding of the Indian market. Combined, EBTC will provide end-to-end and demand-driven solutions in the Indian context.
“Crafting a financially-successful PPP model requires a personalised approach considering the particular local needs and multiple stakeholders. It is important to involve relevant expertise from the planning phase. Once the asset is created, it is crucial to have dedicated specialists to sell various these facilities/ services.”
With sustainability and innovation at its core, the Sports Cluster focusses on the development of sports infrastructure, coaching & talent development, environmental & financial sustainability to bring in global best practices and social impact in India.
accessible, multi-purpose sports, infrastructure