India’s Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday said the country will need to raise the level of athletics at the world stage.
He was speaking at the inaugural session of the six-day online technical officials’ seminar jointly conducted by the South Asian Athletics Federation and the Athletics Federation of India.
“Athletics is the heart and soul of the Olympic Games and we need to raise the level of our athletics,” Rijiju said. “I want to give the young athletes the opportunity to realise their dreams,” he said in the virtual session.
He said a number of moves had been initiated by the government to enable India make a breakthrough in realising its potential in sports.
“We want to create a big sports culture in the country so that we can improve our presence in world sport. It is our obligation to raise the level of sport in India,” he said.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe complimented SAAF and AFI for conceiving the six-day seminar.
“Our sport simply does not function at any level without the contribution of the technical officials. It would be unrecognisable without one of our sport’s most endearing aspects, the enshrining of the volunteer contribution 24x7,” Coe said.
He said World Athletics’ major task in the time ahead was to keep as many of its competitions intact.
“We owe it to the athletes and the Member Federations to maintain a structure that we can optimistically look forward to so that we can give athletes the chance to get back to competition as soon as is possible, but in a fair way,” he said.
Referring to World Athletics decision to suspend the Olympic qualification till December 1 this year, he said the structure would have to be designed so that the athletes return to the competition in a fair way.
“We need to ensure that our athletes get back to competition safely and securely and in a way that does not damage the integrity of all our competitions, he said, adding he was happy to be a part of the largest online gathering of technical officials.
“I know the Indian Federation has embraced technology in a big way not only to reach larger audiences but also to meet the sustainability challenge by getting rid of paper.”
In his opening remarks, AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said, “AFI is the first national federation to host online courses for coaches and technical officials. We also plan on having our annual general meeting on May 2 and all our sub-committee meetings online.”
South Asian Athletics Federation President Lalit K Bhanot said the seminar was a true reflection of grit, resolve, sportsmanship and love for athletics in the region.