Mumbai was witness to the India International Sports Summit on March 24, held at The Trident. On Day 1 of the summit, renowned individuals from the sports field discussed the future of Indian sports and obstacles that hamper the growth of major sporting events in India.
One of the sessions discussed the benefits of hosting mega events. The panellists were Robert Douglas (Bob) Houghton, chief coach, Indian National Football Team; Udit Sheth, MD and CEO, SE TransStadia; Guru Malladi, partner, E&Y India; and Anil Singh, managing director, Procam International.
Malladi stated that sporting events were exciting; but the need of the hour was to stick by deadlines. He gave an example of the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona and how the city took charge of things way before time. The planning was so systematic that the unemployment rate declined by almost 10 per cent, since several opportunities were created for locals during the planning of the Olympics.
The concept of hosting a marathon was brought to India by Singh. He suggested that sports were all about passion and getting connected to the citizens of the country. In India, people blame the government, infrastructure, media, IPL, cricket for not promoting other sports as expected.
Also, one cannot blame the corporate sector for not raising sponsorship for other sports, he said, because corporates would support a cause, only if they got something substantial out of it.
Singh opined that there should be a right approach to pursue matters. He cited the example of the marathon, which is an extremely boring concept, because of unknown athletes participating in the event. Therefore, the solution was to build a property by connecting with the public.
The government would also build infrastructure if someone utilizes it; the basic question is where the sportsmen are. One needs to look at the entire packaging of the product, Singh stated.
Houghton gave an insightful comparison between India and China, saying that he was the national coach of China from 1998 - 2004. China has recorded immense economic growth, in spite of the fact that the distribution of wealth in China happens through the government. India, being a democracy, needs the government and private sectors to step in to improve the current situation, he concluded.
Sheth articulated that developing infrastructure was not a problem, but one had to work on talent development in the country. To build talent, measures are required at every stage.
Malladi animadverted that if India has to host FIFA World Cup 2022, then the arrangements had to start now onwards; as 12 years were barely enough for the preparations. Billions of dollars were needed to host such an event, due to the complexities involved at every stage.
Houghton supported Malladi's opinion, saying that there was no difference between the Olympics and World Cups; as the former gets organized in one city, while the latter in different cities of the country. The core idea was to develop and build the cities by optimum usage of resources available.
Malladi concluded the session by saying that India had the capability of hosting FIFA World Cup 2022; but had to get the elements of national and international sporting together to fulfill the task.