Sports Minister unveils ambitious London Olympics programme

Ajay Maken on Thursday unveiled an ambitious programme named `Operation Excellence London 2012` to prepare Indian athletes for next year`s Olympic Games.

New Delhi: Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Thursday unveiled an ambitious programme named `Operation Excellence London 2012` to prepare Indian athletes for next year`s Olympic Games with an aim to bring more medals after historic
performances in Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Announcing the launch of `Opex London 2012`, Maken said the country expects more medals in London than earlier Olympic Games and to achieve that the ministry will implement the programme in a mission mode.

"We are expecting better results in London Olympics than earlier Games. So, the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India have formulated Opex London 2012 which would be implemented in a mission mode," Maken said.

"The programme will be a comprehensive one and will include training, coaching and providing all the required facilities to the athletes. The athletes will be given foreign exposure, participation in international competitions and hiring of foreign coaches to get the best results in 2012 Olympics," he said.

Maken informed that the pragramme will be implemented through two operational arms -- one meant for elite medal prospects that would be given special treatment and the other for the national teams of all Olympics disciplines.
"Medal prospect (athletes) and top 10 in selected individual disciplines will be managed and funded through the National Sports Development Fund. The preparation of the national teams for all the Olympic disciplines with a focus on
training camps, national and foreign coaches, and equipment support and training and competition exposure abroad will be implemented by SAI," the minister said.

Maken said the goals will be achieved in a time-bound and professional manner and for this purpose two committees – an Apex Committee and Steering Committee -- will be formed with specific mandate and he will head the first one.

The Apex Committee will approve the action plan in mission mode while the Steering Committee, to be chaired by sports secretary, will approve and sanction the training camps for specific disciplines, diet/nutrition, foreign coaches and
national coaches and competition exposure abroad.

The Steering Committee will also approve specific proposal under `OPEX London 2012` and empanel various institutions, venues abroad where the selected athletes will be sent for training/competition exposure.

Besides the sports minister, the Apex Committee will comprise Sports Secretary, SAI Director General, representatives of sports control boards of Services, Railways
and Petroleum, besides those of IOA, BCCI, CII, FICCI. It will also have four to six Olympians, senior sports journalists and joint secretary sports will be the member convener.

The Steering Committee will have other members in joint secretary (ISD) and joint secretary (sports), government observers, representative of NSF/IOA, any other members to be co-opted as required and executive director (SAI)/Chief
operating officer (national teams).

Maken said India will focus on 16 out of 26 disciplines in London Olympics as the country has chances to get quota places and win medals.

"Our focus is on swimming, archery, athletics, boxing, badminton, gymnastics, hockey, judo, rowing, sailing, shooting, table-tennis, taekwondo, tennis, weightlifting and wrestling and we will have continuous training cum foreign
exposure/competition for the trainees in all the 16 identified disciplines for about 220-250 days in run-up to Olympic Games," he said.
Asked if the budget allocation for this year which has been reduced to one-third of that of last year would impact on the funding of the ambitious programme, Maken said if the outlay is not increased in the revised estimates, the ambitious programme for the preparation of Olympics will be affected.

"The decrease in budget allocation for this year is a matter of concern for us and we are hoping that this will be rectified in the revised estimates. We are going to talk to the Planning Commission and concerned authorities. We are hoping that we will get more in revised estimates. Otherwise, the London Olympics programme may be impacted," he said.

Maken said training camps of some sports have already started and in case of others like hockey they will start later this month.

He acknowledged that the ministry was doing a tightrope walk in case of hockey after the Supreme Court had asked it to solve the dispute between Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation through "conciliation if possible".

"The Supreme Court has asked the ministry to initiate conciliatory process between the two parties and we have sat together will both parties earlier. Hearing at the Supreme Court is also coming up tomorrow," he said.
Indian hockey team has been without a coach for the last four months and Maken said the ministry was trying to appoint a coach agreeable to both HI and IHF.

Interestingly, the Olympic hockey probables, which will start training from March 9, will be announced after the HI and IHF give them their respective name of players.

"We want to appoint a common coach who is agreeable to both HI and IHF if possible. I can`t say if the coach will be an Indian or a foreigner. The name of coach will be announced soon before the training camp starts on March 9," he said.

"Regarding the probables, we are trying to have a common list of 48 players. In that case, the training camp will be in Delhi only. If HI and IHF submit more than 48 players then we will have more than one camp," Maken said.

He said India will sent hockey teams in Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia in May as well as in Champions Trophy in December and Champions Trophy qualifiers early next year.

The minister said the CWG legacy infrastructure will be put to optimum utilization by hosting training camps for the national teams in the disciplines of shooting, hockey, gymnastics, judo, athletics and swimming in the SAI stadia.

Maken said all the core probable athletes will be given three or four-star lodging facilities with all basic amenities, air travel by national carrier, food supplements,
energy drinks, adequate medical coverage.

"The coaching camp scheduled for preparation of national teams for London Olympics 2012 will be held in Delhi and various other centers across the country that includes SAI centres such as NSNIS Patiala, Kolkata, Bangalore, Gandhi
Nagar and sub-centres Guwahati, Bhopal, Sonepat and Lucknow.”

"All the core probable athletes will be given three or four star residential facilities if they are available at the training centres. If these accommodations are not available at the training centres, the athletes will be put up at three or four star hotels at the nearest place," Maken said.

"They will also be given Rs 450 daily allowance for food for the entire duration of training. They will be given economy class air travel from home to training centers and back," he said.

Camps for shooting had already started in Delhi on March 1 at Karni Singh shooting range and those selected are being put up at Hotel Raj Hans at Surajkund.

The hockey players, whose training will start on March 9 at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here, will be put up at Hotel Samrat.

The SAI has also finalised the first list of 18 coaches to be hired for providing training in different disciplines and more in athletics were in the process of being identified.
Maken said two foreign athletics coaches – Nikolai Snesarev of Belarus and Yuri Ogorodnik of Ukraine – were among the 18 and they will be retained till London Olympics.

Nikolai has been instrumental in turning the fortunes of Indian middle distance running and under him Kavita Raut and Preeja Sridharan had brought laurels for the country in the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Yuri was instrumental in Indian women relay team`s gold winning performance in the CWG and Asian Games, besides also being the coach of Ashiwni Akkunji who won gold in 400m hurdles in the Asian Games.

Maken said the Draft National Sports Legislation had been placed in the public domain and comments and suggestions vise a vise the legislation were being received.

"A committee of eminent sportspersons and sports journalist for making the recommendations on optimal usage of SAI in Delhi had been constituted. The committee has since met twice and would be submitting its report on March 7."


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