The Narendra Modi government’s ‘big bang’ announcement of setting up of the country’s first-ever National Sports University in the Northeastern state of Manipur in July 2014 was thought of as the ‘best thing to have happened to the Indian sporting landscape’.
The euphoria that the July 2014 announcement generated steadily gave way to pessimism about the project seeing the light of the day. Let’s face it - close to four years have elapsed since the proposal for a National Sports University was unveiled.
Four years is a long time and the key stakeholders - the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Manipur government, must shoulder responsibility for this inordinate delay and act swiftly. Sports lovers can’t be faulted if they think they deserve an explanation for this undue delay.
Why was the first-ever National Sports University seen just what the doctor ordered for Indian sports?
After all, we are a country that struggles to make its ‘presence felt’ in big-ticket events such as the Olympics and World Championships and yet contrives to manage some ‘miraculous performances’ at these events only due to the dogged determination of athletes to tide over appalling infrastructure as well as administrative apathy in pursuit of chasing glory.
However, the country’s athletes can take heart from the fact that the National Sports University Ordinance 2018 has come into force recently after the President of India gave his consent to it. Once the National Sports University bill is tabled in the Parliament, it should pave the way for a speedy pace of work for the project to be up and running.
One wonders why the concerned authorities has taken so much time to get the infrastructure in place for the National Sports University given the fact that the erstwhile Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government had allocated around 340 acres of land in mid-2016 for the National Sports University at Koutruk in West Imphal district, some 20-odd kms from capital Imphal.
How far are we along the road?
Interestingly, this 340 acres of land was much more than the 200 acres of land sought by the centre, which indicates that the previous Congress regime wasted no time in doing the needful as far as land allocation is concerned.
Amidst all the talk about the delay in construction work for the National Sports University at Koutruk in West Imphal district, the National Sports University was officially started as a temporary measure from the Khuman Lampak sports complex in Imphal after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone earlier this year. The NSI is currently run by a statutory body registered to the registrar of Co-Operative Society, Manipur on September 1, 2017, with Retired IAS office Radhakumar as the first Registrar of the NSI.
The temporary premises of the NSI currently offers three subjects - Sports Coaching, Physical Education and Sports Psychology comprising 23 students. The NSI has set up two hostels one each for boys and girls and students at the university take their theory classes at the National Sports Academy set up by Manipur sports department long back within the Khuman Lampak sports complex.The temporary premises of the NSI currently offers three subjects - Sports Coaching, Physical Education and Sports Psychology comprising 23 students.
As far as the proposed National Sports University site at Koutruk in West Imphal district is concerned, Kolkata-headquartered Hindustan Steel Construction Limited has kickstarted construction work started in March this year, focusing on boundary fencing, earth-cutting among others.
So what does the National Sports University promises to offer or it will remain an NSI only in name? The NSI must provide strong differentiators that no other sports institute in the country can boast of or else the very purpose of setting up the sports university will get defeated. For long, there has been a crying need for a specialised university that is not just confined to producing Olympic medal winners but going beyond that.
Globally, sports universities in China and Germany are doing much more regarding focusing on areas such as sports sciences, sports technology, sports management and sports coaching besides serving as the national training centre for sports disciplines.
On the sports science front, the operating model of the National Sports University must adhere to the international best practices adopted by the world’s top sports science universities. These examples include the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University Australia, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, University of South Carolina – Columbia, United States and School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, England.
Sunil Elangbam, Secretary-General, Manipur Olympic Association - a keen observer of sports in the state, said that the National Sports University (NSI) must accord high focus on sports science and sports performance analysis courses. “The objective of having National Sports University in Manipur should be to give a new push to the Indian sports ecosystem, and it should benefit athletes not just from the state of Manipur but from across the country. The NSI’s responsibility should not end with churning out athletes who can win medals at Olympics and other big-ticket events. Of course, producing medal winners should be the focus area, producing quality coaches along with sports science, sports performance analysis are equally important.”
Well, the NSI project has walked down the ‘controversy path’ as well – student bodies in Manipur have been up in arms about the concerned authorities taking a call to set up outlaying campuses for courses such as Diploma in Sports Journalisms, Sports Management and Sports Performance Analysis in Lucknow.
This has led to apprehensions among the sports fraternity in Manipur about whether the National Sports University will be reduced to any sports institute in India. For now, there are too many loose ends that need to be tightened, and Indian athletes would only hope that the National Sports University at Koutruk in West Imphal district would be up and running. But that’s far from reality as one local sports observer said, “If the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the state government work with utmost sincerity, then the National Sports University at Koutruk can be ready in three to four years’ time. Or else it will take who 6-7 years for this project to see the light of the day.”
The National Sports University has a long road ahead before it turns into a reality!
Also read: GISB: India’s first internationally certified Sports Management course