Postponed by a year due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics is now less than a month away. Last week, the Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju urged the people to extend their support to India's Olympic-bound athletes, the same way they back India's cricketers.
However, India's abysmal performances at the Olympics is in striking contrast to India's immense success at cricket. The model of sports governance and financial irregularities are often blamed for the lack of competitive edge in sports other than cricket. So, the most obvious question that comes to our mind is, how much does India invest in the Olympics?
Money allocated for Sports
In the 2020-21 annual budget, the Government of India allocated Rs 2826.92 crore for sports, which meant an increase of mere ₹ 50 crore from the revised estimates of the financial year 2019-20. The Modi government's flagship sports programme 'Khelo India' received a substantial hike of ₹ 312.42 crore and was allocated ₹ 890.42 crore compared to ₹578 crore in 2019-20.
On the other hand, the National Sports Development Fund saw a reduction of ₹ 27.15 crore from ₹77.15 crore in 2019-20 to ₹ 50 crore in 2020-21. National Sports Federations saw the highest decrease after Finance Minister allocated ₹ 245 crore, ₹ 55 crore less than the previous financial year, according to The Wire. Even the budget for meritorious sportspersons saw a 40% reduction from the last financial year. It is important to note that the 2020-21 annual budget was presented in January 2020, when the government had no idea of the coming pandemic. It was also supposed to be the year of the Tokyo Olympics.
Target Olympic Podium Scheme
While these are the broad schemes under which Indian sportspersons are funded, the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) provides financial assistance to potential Olympic medal winners. Launched in 2014, TOPS is the flagship programme of the Sports Ministry of India.
The top-up funding scheme considers the performance of Indian athletes in the past three years. They are provided with personal coaches and other staff fees, cost of travel during competitions, purchase of equipment, and pocket allowance.
Looking Back At The Last Olympics
In the 2016 Rio Olympic, India spent ₹ 36.85 crore under TOPS, as per Financial Express. Nearly half of that amount was spent on shooting, which was India's most successful Olympic sport in the previous three games. Shooting is also very expensive, which requires importing equipment from other countries. But shooting failed to bring any medal.
Athletics received the second-highest funding of ₹ 7.80 crore in 2016, but India failed to make a mark in the sport. Unfortunately, out of the ₹ 36.85 crore, ₹30.49 crore had gone to disciplines that fell short of goals. Only 1.66 per cent of the total TOPS fund went to the fields that brought India two medals – PV Sindhu in Badminton and Sakshi Malik in wrestling.
Comparison With Other Countries
The United Kingdom allocated close to Rs 9000 crore on sports infrastructure and training in the annual sports budget, whereas India spent only one-third of the UK, Rs 3,200 crore, on youth affairs and sports, before 2016. The UK won 67 medals against India's two at the Rio Games 2016. Abhinav Bindra had also tweeted back in 2016 that a medal cost UK 5.5 million pounds, and that is the kind of investment India needs to make. Otherwise, we cannot expect much.
In the USA, a large number of athletes are privately funded. Individual athletes had started their own funding portal for donations from the general public. Therefore, only 10% of the US Olympic Committee's finance was spent on athletes in Rio 2016, and the USA finished first. China, on the other hand, is known for its aggressive state-sponsored promotion of sports.
Private Investment In India
Before the 2016 Olympics, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) received donations from Reliance Jio, Amul, Tata Salt, Edelweiss Financial Services, Herbalife, Li Ning, and SBJ. Sakshi Malik had also thanked JSW Sport, a foundation funded by the OP Jindal group, after becoming India's first medal winner in Rio Games, as reported by Hindustan Times.
However, unlike NSDF, where the contributions and sponsorships are open and documented, private funding to individual athletes is not. And most recently, the JSW Group has come on board to be the official sponsor of Team India in the Tokyo Olympics and has agreed to pledge sponsorship support of ₹ 1 crore to IOA.
In 2018, the Sports Ministry earmarked ₹ 100 crore for funding of the athletes for the preparation of Tokyo Olympics 2020, which will take place this year. While the number of medals won cannot be equated to the investments made, since medals are not the only measure of success, India nonetheless needs to invest more and put in a new model of sports governance in action.