New Delhi [India], December 31 (ANI): As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged 2020, Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, feels the dreaded year was "challenging" with athletes being deprived of international competitions going into the Tokyo Olympics.
The Sports Minister, however, said everyone utilised the lockdown to plan, develop, and hone their skills.
"The year 2020 has been challenging for all of us especially sports as it was damaging all our resources. Athletes could not take part in international events except the end of 2020 so it has not been a year good for sports and sports world," Rijiju told ANI.
"We have to utilise the moment to plan, develop and invest in our skills. But as I said this was a challenge and we have dealt with it," he added.
Talking about the coronavirus vaccine for Olympic athletes and its due process, Rijiju said that "health workers, frontline coronavirus warriors are naturally the priority". As for the Sports Ministry, the vaccine will first be given to the athletes preparing for the Olympic games and other major world championships.
"The Prime Minister has given a very clear road map and the Health Ministry has made a detailed plan for the Covid-19 vaccine and its distribution so the priority naturally goes to the health workers, front line corona warriors," he said.
The Sports Ministers elaborated further and said: "When it comes to the ministry, we would like to ensure that our athletes and technical people who are there in the field and who would be there for the preparation of the training for Olympics and other major championships be given priority. We have to ensure that whatever opportunity comes to us, the players should be able to avail that."
Rijiju opined that there would be many hurdles leading to Olympics and winning in the showpiece event won't be easy amid the pandemic. "Nothing is easy when it comes to the Olympics as the whole world would be competing for a medal. The preparation must also be need-based. The bigger the competition, harder should be your preparation."
When asked about introducing international level infrastructure in India, he said that all the facilities at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have been made available to the athletes. The registered clubs or accredited coaches have also been given permission to use sports facilities free of cost.
"We would like to see the state governments taking more proactive steps along with the private sector. Everybody has to chip in, the government cannot alone do this kind of adequate affiliation of sporting facilities," he said.
The Sports Minister exuded confidence in the Indian athletes saying that they would finish in the top ten at the 2028 Olympics. He said that the young players' talent would be "crucial" hence nurturing them would help the country reap good results at the big event.
"You have to prioritise the sporting disciplines and of course when we set a target you have to step accordingly, for example, we have set targets for Paris Olympics and Los Angeles Olympics," Rijiju said.
"So these are very technical planning which we have done at the national level. We have formed the committee we have subcommittee in the regional level to ensure that whole identification and scouting of talent at the young age is done properly," he added.
Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving importance to the development of sports in the country, the Sports Minister said there "is no reason that we should lack behind" and expressed his satisfaction over the way teams are functioning currently.
Rijiju also expressed his thoughts on the long-pending sports code and said, "Sports code is a long pending issue, not everybody is on board there are issues which we have to handle at the international level because sports bodies are governed by their respective international organisations that part we have to see, there are issues where people go to court and there are conflicts of interest issues which we have to face.
"So whatever decision we take will have to be in the interest of the sport. I feel that the committee we had formed was being set aside by the High Court so I am just waiting for that once the High Court gives clearance about the setting aside order we will look at a fresh," he added.
To strengthen the clarion call made by the Prime Minister to make India a "fitter nation", Rijiju last week shared his fitness video and urged all the countrymen to join the initiative by posting their fitness videos.
"Fit India movement is basically to create a fitness culture and to ensure that our citizens are fit and through a better fitness culture it will lead to a better sporting culture," Rijiju signed off. (ANI)