India’s growing sports ecosystem needs political stability

India’s Olympic movement cannot afford attention to be diverted away from Paris. (Image: IOA & ECI)

I am not a political commentator, and politics isn’t my domain. And this isn’t a political piece, by any stretch of imagination. At the same time, it is important to state that from the standpoint of Indian sport, a stable government at the centre would make a huge difference. Indian sport is on the cusp, and Paris 2024 could well be a watershed Olympics for us all in India. The world is interested in the India story, and a good Olympics and Paralympics could help Indian sport turn the corner.

A stable government would mean the political class will back the event and be in a position to use sport as soft power. Athletes will be feted and backed, and the Olympic cause given a much-needed fillip. A government in no danger of collapse would also mean the news media moves on from the elections and trains its attention on the Olympics, giving the event its due. Once a government is sworn in and left to the business of ruling the country, other events can take centre stage. There could be public fatigue from consuming toxic political rhetoric, exit polls and the like, and matters other than politics would get much-deserved airtime. 

All of this will, however, change if there is political instability in New Delhi. Daily bickering and back-channel parleys will mean nothing else matters. The Olympics and Paralympics, less than two months away, will hardly get the coverage they deserve. With India expected to win over 30 medals in the Paralympics and 10 in the Olympics, a stable government would mean the leadership appropriates the rhetoric of success and runs with it. It would be the India-shining story on the global stage, and add considerably to the growing acceptance of Olympic sport in India. 

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The sports ecosystem, much like every other sector, is waiting with keen interest as to what happens today. Sponsors who put money into sport have held their cards close to their chests, and haven’t committed much yet. A strong market would mean more investment in sport, and that’s what you need when you are part of a growing ecosystem. 

In the last few years, Indian sport has turned a corner. We have seen state governments like Odisha make a huge difference by investing in sport. The same has now been done in Assam with the badminton Centre for Excellence. The national sports budget was added to, and the TOPS scheme has made a major difference to athletes’ prospects in major events.

Political instability could scuttle all this. In contrast, a stable political set-up would mean sport takes centre stage in the coming months, and the India story is viewed globally through a very different prism. So, as we all stay glued to election results today, my only wish is for stability. The people have decided. May the best team win.

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