New Delhi: Calling for creating a strong sporting nation with sound sports infrastructure, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday set the ball rolling for the next Olympics in Brazil expressing hope that India will improve its ranking in the world.
Felicitating the sportspersons who won medals at the just concluded London Olympics, the President said, "there is no time to rest on laurels. We must collectively lift our nation to greater heights.
"The onus for doing so is not just on our athletes and sports authorities. It must become the duty of every citizen to promote a sporting culture in our country," Mukherjee said and also asked major corporates to sponsor, help identify and nurture talent.
"A strong sporting nation can be built only on the foundation of sound sports infrastructure. We must create sports facilities across the country and nurture talent from the grassroots," the President said.
"I am confident that nothing less than a `medal spring` awaits us at the next Olympics," he said.
He said while the entire nation is rejoicing the achievements in London, it was a moment when everyone needs to re-dedicate in building India`s sporting future.
"Let preparations for the next Olympics begin from today itself. Let us set our goals high and tell ourselves - `Rio, here we come`."
The President complimented medal winners -- Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, Vijay Kumar, MC Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar -- and said, "through their success, we have broken through the glass ceiling of our past."
"What is now needed is a little more determination and perseverance. Our athletes must now cross the last mile. I am confident that if we set our minds to the task, India can join the ranks of leading sporting nations of the world," the President said, adding India, a 1.2 billion strong nation, deserves a better ranking than 55 attained at London Olympics.
"Compared to the medal drought India has undergone since independence, six medals appear a good harvest," he said.
Mukherjee said winning in sports is all about hard work, team spirit and single-minded dedication to the set target.
"It is also about inculcating sportsman like spirit which comprises of a sense of fair play and courage under pressure. I am happy the entire contingent took part in the Olympics with dedication and commitment," he said.
Individually complimenting the medal winners, the President said those who won the laurels for the country deserve highest of praise.
"But those who did not, also, deserve equal appreciation and encouragement. To them, I say do not lose heart. Each one of you have done your best for India. India is proud of all of you and what you have achieved in London," he said.
The President presented commemorative plaques to the six medal winners.
Union Minister for Sports, Ajay Maken, Indian Olympic Association acting-president, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, and Nita Chowdhury, Secretary (sports) were also present on the occasion.
Maken while terming the medal winners as "world conquerors", said the entire country is proud of their achievements.
"All the medal winners are world conquerors. It`s the biggest ever medal haul by the biggest ever Indian contingent and we are proud of your success," he said.
Maken thanked Mukherjee for his contribution to the Indian contingent`s success at the London Olympics as a Finance Minister.
"It was the President who, during his tenure as a Finance Minister, allocated the budget of Rs 260 crore for Sports Ministry`s OPEX London 2012 programme. It was Pranabda who also approved our budget for the 2010 Commonwealth Games as a Finance Minister. He made an important contribution to our success."
Malhotra, meanwhile, thanked the President for honouring the London Olympics medallists and said, "With the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games scheduled in 2014 and next Olympics in Rio in 2016 we are confident of another good show by our athletes."