Event ReportsPublished on Nov 01, 2018
Invest in diverse sports to rise a ‘champion nation’: Expert

A culture of indulging agile local and regional sportsmen in the national leagues would have to be developed even more, if the nation has to achieve greater achievements in the international arena, said Dr Sumanth Raman, sports commentator and writer. He was speaking on the topic, ‘Sports and sportsmen’, in the last of the four-part series in ORF-Chennai’s annual ‘Madras Day’ Interactions on the theme, ‘Chennai for Gen 2K Millennial Kids’ on 25 August 2018.

The evolution of sport over this particular region dates back to generations and centuries, but modern day, international sports development roots its origin to the British period. They were passionate over their regional sports in the ‘occupied territory’. Beginning with cricket and the establishment of the Madras Cricket Club in 1846, they also helped in the development of hockey, tennis and squash. However, for over hundred years all the sports clubs in the presidency capital of Madras, now Chennai, remained exclusive to the British, and was opened up for Indians alongside the freedom movement.

Chicken-and-egg issue

Inculcating field sports in the Gen 2K children was a chicken-and-egg problem, Dr Raman said. “Whether lack of more play grounds is to blame for lack of interest or is the lack of interest of the new-generation kids and their parents is to blame for the shrinking of play grounds in the urbanising Tamil Nadu, starting with capital Chennai, is a hard question to crack,” he said.

The fact is that the “lights of digital world is taking them to the darker side of the reality”, and the result is worse than the worst. In this context, he regretted the reality of pupils with international potential filling up ‘sports quota seats’ in professional colleges or in secured jobs, giving up the sports as they progress in the other field.

Equality and equity

Dr Sumanth Raman said that sports and games in the context of today’s world especially have been well organized and administered by associations that fall under the administrative guidance of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), which maintains a reasonably good standard. On other hand, the clubs which are utilising Government land and the tax-payer’s money, serve only a few for their leisure and pleasure. This has raised questions about ‘equality’ in sports and also acts as an obstacle for the development of sports.

Dr. Raman said that some of the sports associations are dysfunctional due to lack of internal leadership. Politicians are found to be using sports associations while not in power, to promote the self, with the result, the overall efficiency of the required leadership is lacking.  This in turn has led to the overall degradation of efficiency and effectiveness of administration of those sports.

Economics of sports

The leagues-system of conducting periodic sports events and competitions has been successful only in cricket, though it was/is being tried out in a few others sports, as well.  Under the new, modern-day avtars, Dr Raman pointed to the increasing absence of local talent in most cases. “Local talent is a crowd-puller in games less glorious than cricket. The absence or minimal local talent also means that there is fewer opportunities for local players and teams to evolve into national and international standards,” he said.

In this context, the speaker also claimed that ‘contact sports’ like football, hockey and kabadi attract fewer spectators than ‘gentlemen sports’ like cricket and tennis.  Unlike cricket, where the sports and sportsmen are hugely popular as advertisement media, attracting huge investments, others do not attract as much investments, to be able to fund their development.

Dr Sumanth Raman concluded, pointing to the need for increased use of technological tools like live TV footage and others, for coaching players and preparing them for competition in specific games and tourneys, and also to national and international standards. This facility again comes with funding, which needs to be pumped in, to make all sports activities attractive for Gen 2K children to invest their time and talent, too, he said.

Report by S Sivanesan, Associate, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Centre

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