The Union Minister also stressed that lack of understanding of sports runs deep in the nation.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has lamented the fact that there is a lack of knowledge about sports in India and has emphasized the need to create a proper sporting culture to enhance the country’s sporting reputation.
He even indicated that there is a real lack of understanding about sports in the Indian parliament, with many of his colleagues having no knowledge about the general sports in the country apart from cricket.
Speaking at the online launch of the High-Performance leadership program organized by the Abhinav Bindra foundation and ELMS Sports Foundation, he said, “Knowledge in Indian society about sports is very minimum. I don’t want to degrade my own colleagues but even in Parliament there is no knowledge.”
“Everybody knows about cricket, the English people have put that in our mind. They play the game and we had to beat them. But other than that, there is no knowledge, all just want gold medal.”
Back in May, a 15-year-old girl, Jyoti Kumari, had cycled 1200km to her native place in Bihar carrying her father from Gurugram. This followed with national recognition and the teenager also being offered a trial by the Cycling Federation of India, which she turned down.
Kiren Rijiju also spoke about Kumari’s situation and explained, “There was this young girl who under very difficult circumstances during this COVID-19 pandemic carried her father on a cycle from Gurgaon to Bihar. It was a tragic thing but imagine some of my colleagues said she will bring a gold medal for India in cycling.”
“See how lack of knowledge makes people think like this, without knowing what are the formats of cycling and what standards you have to reach to win a gold medal in Olympics, just pouring of information will not do.”
Earlier on, Kambala Jockey Srinivas Gowda and Rameshwar Gujar had also attained popularity for their running exploits in slushy farm fields. Gowda was believed to have completed a 100 meters sprint in 11 seconds, getting him dubbed as the next Usain Bolt.
Speaking about it, Kiren Rijiju said, “There was also a case in Karnataka, a bullock cart running competitions where there was somebody called Srinivas. For a better traction so that people don’t feel we are not aware of the situation, our SAI people had invited him.”
“I was told he was not fit for a world class sprinter but that is not important. People started saying that we have got a man who is faster than Olympic champion Usain Bolt. We have to identify talent but look at the lack of knowledge, people.”
Kiren Rijiju also stressed that there needs to be a complete change in the sporting atmosphere in the country and there must be broadening in giving each sport their needed priority.
“What was bothering me all these years is why we are not able to create a sport culture in India. Abhinav Bindra got the gold at Beijing. In Moscow, our Indian men’s hockey team won a gold medal. It generates celebration but there is no collective effort to have more such momentous occasions,” he opined.
“India definitely has a sporting tradition but unfortunately we don’t have a sports culture. It has been so many years since Bindra got the gold. Fortunately since the 1996 Olympics we have not drawn a blank in medal tally but it is not a good sight for a country of India’s size.”
“We have to change the entire atmosphere in the country to ensure that such moments come more often. We can’t afford to have just one or two icons, to be celebrating one or two medals.”
Kiren Rijiju has voiced ambition for a brighter future for Indian sports ever since becoming the sports minister in 2019. He looks to be determined at unearthing more potential Olympic candidates and ensuring that India is seen as the next bright hub of sports.