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Naming SAI centres after athletes - How does it help Indian sports?

Naming SAI centres after athletes - How does it help Indian sports?

Md Imtiaz

Published: 19 Jan 2021 6:51 AM GMT

It was on Sunday, the Sports Ministry said it has decided to name all the upcoming and upgraded facilities of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) after renowned athletes who have brought accolades for the country. The motive behind the initiative remains is to honour sporting heroes of the country.

The ministry, however, did not give away names of the athletes, who would be honoured after this decision. “Acknowledging their contribution to sports by naming sporting facilities after them is yet another endeavour of the Government to strengthen its commitment to sportspersons,” said Rijiju.

Surprisingly, the decision by the sports ministry comes following a couple of week-old controversy followed by former Indian cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi raised questions. Bedi had threatened to take legal action against the DDCA if his name was not removed from a spectators' stand at the Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket ground in Delhi. The veteran was irked and did not wish to be associated with the cricket stadium which has a statue of Arun Jaitley and was renamed after the minister in the BJP-led NDA government and died last year owing to multiple health issues.

Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai

In fact, very few of the country’s sports facilities, including venues hosting events and training centres, are named after former sportspersons and this has often led to a debate on whether enough is being done to keep their achievements in public consciousness. The whole idea of renaming a sports stadium after a sportsperson is to honour their achievements and make them more popular among public conscience. However, instead of stadiums, we see players gets their names on merely a pavillion within a stadium or SAI centres like this.

How renaming SAI centres would help? Does a SAI centre resonate among the general mass or does a particular stand at a particular ground resonate among mass? The answer is no. The mass would still identify a SAI Centre as a SAI centre and not a Dhanraj Pillay Centre of Excellence or Sachin Tendulkar stand in Wankhede. These are mere compensations for the sporspersons, where most of the hosting venues are named after politicians or businessmaen.

The Wankhede Stadium was constructed in Mumbai back in the 1970s, named after SK Wankhede, a Nagpur lawyer and president of the Mumbai Cricket Association when the stadium came up. M Chidambaram, whose name adorns the stadium at Chepauk in Chennai, was an industrialist and cricketer administrator; and Mangalam Chinnaswamy Mudaliar, after whom the stadium in Bengaluru is named, was a lawyer.

India has a history of naming stadiums after politicians, the favourites being Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Milkha Singh is the man after whom Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium should have been named when it came up in the early 1980s, but it was named after the country’s first prime minister — at a time when his daughter was the prime minister.

Bedi, the former India captain, has taken a stand against the installation of a statue of Arun Jaitley at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium, which had been famous as the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium until last year. In a country where only cricket takes the centrestage, Olympic glory isnot celebrated with pomp, naming merely SAI centres won't popularise our Indian sporting legends among public conscience.

Also read: Happy to have helped Saina Nehwal come out of ‘bad phase’ | U. Vimal Kumar

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