New Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said that the government will work to improve India’s medal count multiple times in the next three Olympic Games and called for the entrenchment of sports culture in the country. Rijiju, who interacted with cycling, boxing and gymnastics national campers at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium Complex, also said that his ministry will not meddle with the autonomy of the National Sports Federations.
The minister, who took charge a few days ago, on Tuesday visited the facilities and interacted with the players to have first-hand knowledge of their conditions. He also had brief mock sparring with Olympic bronze medallist M C Mary Kom at the boxing training centre.
“With the kind of support the government is giving to sport, I am very confident that in the next four to eight years, that is in the three Olympics from now, we will make tremendous improvement, not just nominal improvement but by multiple times’ rise in terms of medals,” he told reporters.
“Sports culture will not come by merely organising events. We must go beyond that and must entrenched this sports culture among the citizens. I am satisfied with the standard of facilities here. There must be an improvement in all sports. I promise to bring change in Indian sports, which is nothing less than a revolution,” he added.
Asked if the NSFs need improvement in their functioning, he said, “All competitive events in the world are organised or handled by sporting bodies. They have a certain level of autonomy and the government’s role is more of supporting them.
“So, the autonomy, all kinds of freedom and leverage the national federations enjoy will not be changed or will not be meddled around with. We have to have absolute coordination between the national federations and government so that the needs of the players and coaches are handled properly.”
Rijiju said he will be “very particular about the well being of the players, their requirements and providing them the best facilities”.
“I want to tell all the sports federations that we are a team. There should not be any division, any faction and misunderstanding between us. We must sit at the same side of the table because we are a team, we are team India.”
Talking about the government’s ambitious ‘Khelo India’ project, he said, “The Prime Minister’s Khelo India Project has popularised sports like no other programme. Everybody now says Khelo India. My duty is to take this project to every nook and corner of this country.”
Earlier in the day, the minister finalised the blueprint of the National Sports University to be set up in Imphal. In a review meeting, he directed that the project must be expedited and work must begin at the earliest.
The foundation stone of the sports university was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March last year. The project was delayed because of land development problems.