Sports Minister Anurag Thakur Announces Setting Up Of Centre Of Excellence In Kashmir

The Centre of Excellence for winter sports in Gulmarg was announced by then sports minister Kiren Rijiju during the second edition of Khelo India Winter Games in February 2021.

Anurag Thakur, left, attends the closing ceremony of KIYG on Saturday.

Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said his ministry is seeking international expertise for setting up a Centre of Excellence (COE) in Jammu and Kashmir's Gulmarg ski resort, which is gradually emerging as the leading winter sports hub of the country. (More Sports News)

"We want to rope in international expertise for making the Centre of Excellence in Gulmarg so that once it is established, it should be one of the best not only in India but in the world," Thakur told reporters here on Friday. 

The Centre of Excellence for winter sports in Gulmarg was announced by then sports minister Kiren Rijiju during the second edition of Khelo India Winter Games in February 2021.

"For two years, we were going through COVID pandemic," Thakur said while justifying the delay.

On Khelo India events going on at several places in the country, Thakur said these tournaments are an opportunity for talent hunt, identification and scouting.

"The outstanding players from here can be picked up and sent to various academies for specialised training and given a chance to progress in their careers," he said.

Thakur referred to the government's TOPS scheme under which the Centre is bearing all the lodging, boarding and training expenses of athletes. They also get an allowance of Rs six lakh per year.

"Similarly, Khelo India academies train 3000 players for which the Government of India bears all expenses, besides they are given Rs 1.2 lakh pocket allowance," he added.

Thakur said the sports ministry provides funding to various sports associations as per their event calendar so that they can bear their expenses.

"The Government will provide all support that is required for the players," he said when asked about some athletes having to fend for themselves while taking part in international events.

The minister said the government is taking sports to every nook and corner of the country through the Khelo India movement.

"We are opening 1000 Khelo India centres across the country out of which 40 have been opened in Jammu and Kashmir," Thakur said. 

Thakur, who tried his hands at snow cricket during his recent visit to Kashmir, advocated for the promotion of the sport for recreational and tourism purpose. 

"Trust me! It can be a big thing in coming years just like beach volleyball. We have to be innovative. I don't see any reason why there should be any difficulties," he said. 

Thakur was introduced to snow cricket during a brief stopover at Tangmarg on Thursday while he was on his way to Gulmarg. 

"There are six-seven states in the country where snowfall takes places. It can be interesting where smaller boundaries are set, and a special ball is used to play. Special rules can be framed for these conditions. Whether the government will do something or not, people can come together and start snow cricket," he said. 

"All you have to do is create a mini-field, have two balls and two bats and play six-a-side game on snow."  

Thakur feels snow cricket can add to the tourism potential of places like Kashmir.

"Snow cricket will also be very popular with the tourists who can enjoy a short game while they are here. A hotel with 200 guests can have a quick game for them in snow-covered lawns."