Two events in New Delhi on Thursday showcased India's eagerness to become a sporting power. A common thread in both the functions -- the India Sports Summit and the launch of the India House at Tokyo 2020 logo -- was sports minister Kiren Rijiju. Pragmatic, more realistic in his targets and non-sarkari in approach unlike his numerous predecessors, Rijiju's passion even made him set his own benchmark as the country's sports boss. "I would have failed as a sports minister if we didn't have an Olympic champion by the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles," he said. (More Sports News)
With several top Indian athletes seeking to meet qualification standards for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics -- 18 have made it to the Games as of September 30, 2019 -- India's medal prospects in Japan remain in the realms of speculation. But one thing is for sure. For the first time in 100 years at the Olympics, there will be a "India House" that will showcase the country's cultural diversity and economic potential to fans arriving in Tokyo for the July 24-August 9 Games next year.
More of a hospitality centre in the proximity of the Games Village in Tokyo, India House was an idea born in Parth Jindal's mind during the Rio Olympics in 2016. Young Jindal is the sports director of JSW Group that has stakes in Indian Premier League team Delhi Capitals, among others.
"In Rio, I was excited to see a USA House, France House, Heineken House (Dutch) and a Brazil House. It was a brilliant idea to celebrate the spirit of the Olympics and bring fans up and close to their superstars. I bought a 100-dollar ticket to visit one of them and it was a great experience," recalled Jindal.
From an idea to actually renting 2,227 square metres of land in Tokyo was a process that was completed with the minimum of delays. JSW, the Indian Olympic Association spearheaded by its secretary-general Rajeev Mehta and the sports ministry's positive attitude helped overcome the red-tapism. "We are working as a team and that's going to be the way forward. Wonder why no one thought of a India House before," said Rijiju.
The India House is going to be the country's window to the world. The fact that India collaborates with Japanese companies in many sectors, especially automobiles, will help generate corporate interest. There will be an entry fee for Indian fans at the Games.
"Indian cuisine will be a major attraction for fans and athletes. Plus, the message of Incredible India will be taken forward by agents doing business in tourism. India can demonstrate its soft power," Jindal explained.
The expo-like approach is likely to add to the Indian razzmatazz at the Tokyo Games. But the real shine will come only if the athletes deliver. In Rio, India won just two medals to finish 67th and India's best was in London 2012 -- six. All silver and bronze. But then as Rijiju said, Tokyo will be the starting point of good things to come ...