National sports Day: How has the Khelo India program been for the country?
The Khelo India Program has helped in producing athletes such as Saurabh Chaudhary, Anshu Malik, and Srihari Nataraj.
Before the Khelo India program was launched in 2018 as an initiative to look for talent at the grassroots level in the country, the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) was the entity that was tasked to conduct games and national championships for school students in the country. While the SGFI is still conducting those events, it was pretty clear back then that the country needed a lot more competitions to be conducted to find talent and also to ensure they compete in large-scale events from a very early age.
The Khelo India program was launched to provide a platform for young athletes to showcase their talents so that the sports authorities can scout and provide the required support to those athletes who have the potential to represent the country at international events.
Growth in participation
Ever since its inception in 2018, the Khelo India program has just continued to grow each and every year. In the inaugural edition, which was called the Khelo India School Games, there were 3507 players competing in 16 sports in the Under-17 category.
One year later in 2019, when it was renamed as Khelo India Youth Games, the participation from the athletes increased to 5925. This was owing to the fact that the 2019 edition had 18 sporting disciplines competing in Under-17 as well as the Under-21 category. The number of sports further increased to 20 in the 2020 edition of the Khelo India Youth Games with approximately more than 10,000 athletes competing at the event.
Apart from the increase in competition the financial support provided by the government to organise these games has also grown massively during that time. During the year 2018-19 the Khelo India program was allocated around INR 342.24 crore which increased to INR 500 crore in 2019 and then to INR 890.42 crore in 2020. This was an important aspect as the program provides annual financial assistance of INR 5 lakh for 8 years for the talented players in priority sports discipline. The program has also focused on providing training to young athletes and has launched excellence centers in eight different states such as Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha, Telangana, and Nagaland to support the athletes with proper coaches and training facilities.
While all these initiatives have helped in improving the landscape of Indian sports but the question is whether the program can be termed as a success, especially in terms of impact at international events and, would be fair to say that it has provided many positives over the years.
One of the biggest indicators of the success of the Khelo India program was the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which saw India's biggest contingent ever taking part in the Olympic Games. The games saw athletes such as Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Anshu Malik, Srihari Nataraj, etc. competing in different events, who have grown through the Khelo India program.
While these athletes may not have won a medal in Tokyo, but the experience of competing from such a young age will help them grow further in the near future.
Similar to the Tokyo Olympics, the athletes from the Khelo India program also helped the country at the 2018 Youth Olympics where India created history winning a total of 13 medals as this was the most successful Youth Olympic for the country. While it was still early days for the Khelo program, many of the athletes who competed in the 2018 Khelo India games represented the country at the Youth Olympics.
Stars for the future
Apart from the athletes mentioned above the Khelo India program has helped in identifying talent who have the potential to make it big in the future. These include names such as Lakshya Sen (Badminton), Komalika Bari (Archery), Tasnim Mir (Badminton), Ankita Dhyani (Athletics), Mehuli Ghosh (Shooting), etc. as all of them have shown the skill level required to succeed on the international stage.
All the Khelo India program needs right now is to continue with the good work that it has done so far and effectively utilize the resources to keep on producing the athletes who can go on to win medals for the country at the international level.