Kinalur, Kerala: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said India's sporting landscape has started to change for the better as people are taking up sports as full- time career with remarkable improvement in on-field performance.
Inaugurating the new world class synthetic track at the Usha (PT Usha) School of Athletics here via video conference, PM Modi said that the expansion of the sports industry will also help in the growth of the country's economy.
"During earlier decades there was an environment in which sports was not pursued as a career. Now this thinking has started to change. Soon the results will be evident on the playground," he said.
"India has huge potential in sports. India is a sports loving country. The passion with which my young friends watch the ongoing Champions Trophy is the same with which they see the EPL football or NBA basketball fixtures and the F1 Races.
"We have no shortage of talent. But we need to provide right kind of opportunity and create an eco-system to nurture the talent," he added.
He said sports as a full-fledged ecosystem can contribute immensely to the country's economy apart from creating a lot of employment opportunities.
"A strong sporting culture can help the growth of a sporting economy. The sports industry sector provides chances in different segments such as professional leagues, sport equipment and surfaces, sports science, medicine, support personnel, apparels, nutrition, skill development, sports management among others.
"Sports is a multi-billion dollar global industry propelled by enormous consumer demand. The global sports industry is estimated at around USD 600 billion. In India, the entire sports sector is estimated at USD 2 billion only," the Prime Minister said in his address.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel and legendary athlete Usha, who runs the facility, were among those who were on the dais.
The 'Project' was sanctioned in 2011 but the work order for the synthetic track was awarded only in 2015. It is a full PUR track, designed to minimise the chances of injuries and is compatible with the international standards.
Modi also urged the authorities to ensure that women take equal part as men in the pursuit of sports in the country.
"Women in our country have made us proud by their achievements in all fields, more so in sports. We must encourage our daughters and provide them with opportunities to take up sports. What is most gladdening is that in the last Paralympics, our players showed their best performance ever.
"Perhaps going beyond the sporting achievement, these Paralympics and the performance by our athletes have transformed our attitude towards our 'Divyang' sisters and brothers. I shall never be able to forget what Deepa Malik said when the medal was awarded to her.
"She said 'Through this medal I have actually defeated the disability itself'. There is great strength in this remark. We have to work continuously towards creating a mass base for sports," the PM said.
Modi also asked the sports community to decide on a set of goals when India celebrates 75 years of freedom in 2022.
"Our playgrounds and stadiums should be utilised to the maximum. Holidays should also be about going out and playing a sport. Grounds of schools and colleges or the stadiums with modern facilities in the district may be utilised," he said.
Talking about the facility, Modi said, "I wish a bright future to USHA School and hope that the new synthetic track will facilitate them to achieve new heights. And hopefully contribute to our preparation for major international events, including the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
"This track is an important landmark in the development of Usha School and will provide modern facilities to the trainees. I am confident it will produce more champions in track and field events at the Olympics and World events. The Government will fully support you and will provide all possible help in achieving excellence in athletics," he said.
Modi also took the opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of Usha in the field of athletics.
Addressing Usha as 'Payyoli Express, 'Udan Pari' and the 'Golden Girl' of India, he said, "PT Usha has been a shining light of sports in India. She endured several challenges in life and went on to enter Olympics final, missing a medal only by a whisker.
"In the history of Indian athletics very few have achieved a track record like hers. Usha ji, the nation is proud of you. What is even better is Usha ji has continued her association with sports. Her personal attention and focused approach have started bringing about good results to her trainees. Like Usha ji, USHA School is making the best use of every opportunity by utilising simple and limited resources."