“An additional grant of Rs.450 crore was made by our prime minister to encourage sports, which were unheard of in the past and this initiative was taken, for the first time,” Sonowal said in his address to Incheon Asian Games medallists, who met Modi Oct 14 morning.
Sonowal said that Indian contingent’s performance at the 17th Asiad, where they bagged 57 medals (11 gold, 10 silver and 36 bronze) was below the ministry’s expectations and the country must strive hard to better its performance in upcoming events.
“In the recently concluded Asian Games, we finished in eighth position with 11 gold, 10 silver and 36 bronze medals. This, I must confess, is below our expectation. This only shows that the competition in the international arena is getting tougher and tougher day-by-day,” he said.
“If we have to retain the top positions, we will have to work harder, faster and stronger. Without being complacent, we need to put in our extra efforts and cross that extra mile to achieve excellence in sports,” he said.
Sonowal made a special mention of Sardar Singh-led hockey team, which won gold after a gap of 16 years, beating arch-rivals Pakistan in the final.
“A special word of praise is for the Indian Hockey Team which won the gold medal beating Pakistan in a nerve racking final,” said the minister.
Congratulating the medal winners, Modi said he has “great enthusiasm to see India excel in sports”.
He expressed hope that the combination of his enthusiasm and the spirit of sportspersons would bring good results for the nation.
Adding that India had a long history of sports, and a sports stadium had been discovered in the archaeological site of Dholavira near Kutch, he said: “But we have not geared ourselves up to compete globally, so far.
“This situation is slowly changing now as states focus on specific sports, and setting up sports universities.”
He said India was tying up with other countries to develop sports.
Asking sportspersons to consider him their friend, Modi urged them to “feel free to give their suggestions to him, and to call on him personally if they have anything specific to talk about”.
However, he urged them to be cautious about their conduct. “A mistake by one sportsperson can bring bad name to the country.”
While appreciating the efforts of boxer Mary Kom and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar vis-a-vis the Clean India Campaign, he said: “These had much greater visibility than a prime minister wielding the broom… Sportspersons do as much for the country as political leaders.”
He suggested that award winning sportspersons who can speak well should deliver talks at universities. “This will prove inspirational for youths.”