Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Friday said that the state government has already initiated a number of measures to realise the dream of producing Olympians.
Replying to a call attention notice moved by Mawsynram MLA HM Shangpliang in the Assembly, Sangma said recently the youth of the country put up their best ever performance at the Tokyo Olympics which has made everyone proud.
He said however, it is to be acknowledged that there was no athlete from Meghalaya in the Olympic squad.
“Given the large youth population and the sporting culture, the government felt that concerted efforts need to be made with a goal of having Meghalayan athletes represent the country in the 2024 and 2028 Olympics,” Sangma added.
To produce Olympians, he said it takes concentrated and persistent effort from all the key stakeholders and building a robust sports ecosystem adding globally, the approach adopted by the top sporting nations involves the right policies, long term investments and effective collaborations.
On sports infrastructure development and upgradation, Conrad said the Department of Sports & Youth Affairs has started building world class sports infrastructure at Shillong, East Khasi Hills, Tura, West Garo Hills and Wahiajer, West Jaintia Hills.
He said rural infrastructure including football grounds, running tracks and basketball courts are being constructed across various locations.
“Several sports infrastructure are being upgraded and developed in line with international standards and specifications to ensure that our athletes have state of the art infrastructure to train and nurture their talent,”he added.
Some of the key sports infrastructure projects being taken up are Upgradation and Enhancement of the J.N.S Sports Complex Shillong.
The components of the project include an Olympic Size Swimming Pool 50m x 25m, practice pool 25m x 17m, Fitness centres, 5 AITA Compliant Tennis Courts, Multi-Purpose Indoor Hall of 60m x 40m, Squash Courts, Table Tennis Hall, Jogging Track, Open Amphitheatre, 10m and 25m shooting range, Banquet halls, Cafeteria and restaurant, Administrative office spaces
The upgradation and enhancement of the JNS complex has been segregated into 3 projects:
Upgradation of the JNS Outdoor sports complex which is estimated at INR 39.01 Cr – tendering in process
Integrated Indoor sports Complex which is estimated at INR 96.48 Cr – DPR prepared, technical sanction and Administrative approval accorded
JN Aquatics and Tennis complex estimated at INR 39.39 Cr – DPR prepared, Technical Sanction is being processed.
The Chief Minister also informed that the construction works for the PA Sangma Integrated Sports Complex is ongoing at a good pace, with the football stadium expected to be completed by December 2021.
He said the total estimated cost for the upgradation and construction of the sports infrastructure is Rs 127.98 Crore.
The project comprises of two indoor complexes and an outdoor football stadium including a FIFA Compliant Football field with modular lighting, Seating capacity of 9500, VIP Seating Gallery and Lounge, 25 Meters x 19 Meters swimming pool, Badminton hall for 8 courts, Table Tennis Hall, 4 Squash Courts, Cafeteria , Open air dining space, Public plaza and Administrative office spaces.
On the Wahiajer Outdoor Stadium, West Jaintia Hills District, he said the stadium includes a FIFA approved synthetic Football turf and an Athletics federation approved synthetic athletics track with seating capacity of 3000, VIP and media galleries and administrative office spaces. The estimated cost of the project is INR 24.97 Cr.
He said so far as the Ampati Outdoor Stadium, South West Garo Hills District is concern, it is being constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 46.64 Crore.
It shall feature a FIFA compliant football stadium, VIP seating Gallery, commercial retail spaces, seating capacity of over 15000, administrative office areas.
The Chief Minister said additionally, 57 grassroot level sports infrastructure projects including renovations and new constructions have been sanctioned in the financial year 2020-21 amounting to INR 20.72 Cr and 110 projects in the present financial year 2021-22 amounting to INR 67.86 Cr.
“In total, the government has initiated sports infrastructure projects with a total investment of about INR 500 Cr. Such large-scale investments in the sports sector has never been done in the State before. This infrastructure would provide the foundation for the youth of the State to participate and achieve competitive excellence,” he said.
Another aspect to achieving sporting excellence is the organisation and conduct of competitions and tournaments.
Conrad said the State is slated to host the 39th Edition of the National Games adding that the CoVID pandemic has disrupted sporting calendars across the globe including the national games.
However, hosting of the national games will play an important role in inspiring the athletes of the State to compete and achieve laurels for the State, he said.
According to him, the State government, in close coordination with the MSOA and the various State sports associations, is in the process of submitting candidatures for hosting various international/national/
regional competitions in the year 2022 as we celebrate the golden jubilee year of Statehood.
The Chief Minister also admitted that the establishing centres of excellence with state-of-the-art sports science equipment and experienced technical manpower is an essential ingredient for producing champions.
He said the J.N.S Stadium Complex in Shillong has been accorded the accreditation of a Centre of Excellence under the Sports Ministry’s flagship programme Khelo India.
Under the scheme 3 Olympic sport disciplines (Boxing, Athletics, Archery) are slated to be supported technically and financially with a grant of approximately INR 8.00 Crores over a period of 4 years.
“This would enable the State government to mobilise qualified and experienced coaches and technical manpower and procure modern sports equipment, which would aid in the nurturing of sports talent in the State.
Over 10 centres in the State have received accreditation from the Khelo India scheme as district level small Khelo India centres,” he said.
The centres would be financially support for procurement of sports equipment and support to technical staff. The State is in process of further leveraging the various verticals of the Khelo India Scheme for grassroot sports development.
Post the construction of the P.A Sangma Integrated Sports Complex and the JNS Stadium, the State government is contemplating entering into partnerships with international and national level sports institutions and bodies for setting up of centres of excellence at the two venues.
The Chief Minister further stated that another critical step for producing Olympians is to identity the right talent from the right age groups. For instance, for the 2024 Olympics the right age group to identify and nurture would be the current 15-20-year olds.
“For the 2028 Olympics the relevant target age group would be much younger. We are putting in place a talent identification and development programme in coordination with the MSOA,” he said.
Under the programme a large number of children under different age groups would be screened and those exhibiting potential would be channelled into more structured training programmes. This programme shall be conducted using globally accepted online and offline testing methods.
“In conclusion, I strongly feel that with world class infrastructure, the right talent identification and development mechanism and with access to high quality coaching, our athletes will be able to excel and represent the country in the Olympics,” Conrad said.
Assuring that the state government is deeply committed to making this dream a reality, he said the government will invest the resources and collaborate with the various stakeholders including the Government of India, the MSOA, the state sports associations and other external agencies.