Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday lamented lack of “sports culture” in India.

He, however, said the government is working to make the country a “sports powerhouse” in the coming days.

The Union minister was in Goa to inaugurate five different indoor stadiums constructed for the upcoming National Games, scheduled to be held in October-November, 2020.

“We are trying to create a culture of sports in the country. Today, I was sharing this thought with officers also that we are a country which has not been able to exploit its sporting potential at the international level,” the minister said.

“Goa has good football culture like the Northeast and West Bengal. Barring this, India has not been able to develop sports culture. For Indians, sports is not a way of life, which is reality,” he added.

Citing old texts, Rijiju said sports used to be part of the Indian way of life.

“From day one, our government tried to work out certain mechanisms so that India becomes a sporting powerhouse. The prime minister has constituted an Olympics Task Force committee. I have started taking decisions to have major changes and reforms within my ministry. You will see the results in times to come,” he said.

Rijiju said people should know that the government alone cannot do much.

“In some big international events that have happened in India, not even five percent of stadiums get filled with spectators,” he rued.

The BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh further said money will get generated if people start watching various games.

“Many people say cricket gets money and other sports not. You start watching various games and money will come. If you play a football match and there is a competition then money will start pouring in,” he stated.

The minister said the government did not provide funds for cricket. “That game is flushed with money because of patronage from people,” he added.

“Businessmen will put money where people will watch. It is the people who create a sports culture. The government can only create a platform,” he said.

The minister said the Central government will ask each state and Union Territory to identify sports for their potential, for which “hundred percent funding” will be provided.

‘India would be in top-ten list at 2028 Olympics’

Stating that Olympics 2028 was the “actual target” for the country, Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju said on Saturday that India would make it to the top ten countries in the medals’ tally at the Los Angeles Games.

For the coming Tokyo games, India has to rely on “existing talent” but the “actual target” beyond that was the Los Angeles Olympics four years later, he said.

The Minister of State of Youth Affairs and Sports was speaking after inaugurating four stadiums in the run-up to the National Games to be held in Goa in October-November 2020.

“India has 20 percent of the young population of the world. Every fifth youth is Indian. Can we be proud to win one medal and two medals in the Olympics? We cannot accept this situation....that is why we have prepared a roadmap,” he said.

“For Tokyo 2020, we are ready but we have limitations. We have existing talent...We are hoping that Tokyo 2020 will be best-ever Olympics for India but beyond that, the actual target is Los Angeles Olympics in 2028,” Rijiju said.

“We will not be going for one or two medals, we will be in the top ten in the world, that is our preparation,” he said.

The Union minister also opined that to achieve this, “incremental improvement” would not suffice. “We should have a quantum jump,” he said.