Sporting spectacles curse to the country : Aiyar

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New Delhi, Dec 3: Harping on his pet theme of broad-basing sports in the country, Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has lashed out at those who intend to spend huge money for ''big sporting spectacles'' while failing to provide basic facilities at the grassroot level, especially at the villages.

''We are spending huge sums of money for sporting spectacles but we do not have money to spend at the village schools to provide basic sporting infrastructure,'' Aiyar said with obvious reference to the Commonwealth Games which India is hosting in 2010 and the country's bid for Asian Games and Olympics.

Aiyar had expressed at several fora his displeasure of India hosting big Games like the Commonwealth Games which, in his opinion, have very little to do with the vast majority of Indian people.

Aiyar has also been having a run-in with Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and sports federations affiliated to it over the Draft National Sports Policy which envisages establishment of a regulatory body to oversee the sports bodies.

When India lost the bid for the 2014 Asian Games to South Korean city of Incheon, IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi had openly accused Aiyar of being responsible for it.

Aiyar also justified the degradation of hockey to general category from priority list by his ministry.

''The plight of hockey has reached such a stage that I had to had the regrettable privilege to preside over a ministry which downgraded it from priority to general to a strong protests from those people, who themselves were responsible for the game to reach such a mess,'' Aiyar said at the inauguration of Parsvnath Commonwealth Chess Championships here late last night.

''Our women's hockey players are trying to recapture the past glory of their men's counterparts,'' he added while forgetting the Asia Cup victory by the men's team two month's back.

Regarding the plight of football, the Sports Minister said sarcastically, ''National football team's condition is such that the only ranking which is below India's rank in Human Development Index is that of football.'' Aiyar also did not forget to talk about cricket, though with sarcasm and justification of it being the ''most well endowed'' sports in the country.

''The reason why India is world champion in cricket is that the game is played by 10 countries only whereas football is played in every country.

''Cricket is doing well and so they are cornering most of the money from the private sector. Those who are heading other sports bodies complained about this for the reason that there is no reason to complain.

''If you do well, you get sponsors. Chess is doing well and so getting sponsors,'' he said before inaugurating the Commonwealth Chess Championship sponsored by real estate developers Parsvnath.

Aiyar began his address with a sarcastic remark that he was to preside a function for a Commonwealth event which Indians take pride of doing well.

''When we do not get medals at other (tougher) competitions (like Olympics), we take pride that we did well in Commonwealth Games,'' he said.

He compared India's sports scenario with that of Cuba and said, ''My ministry had done a detailed study on how Cuba had done so well in Olympics from Munich (1972) onwards.

''Cuba, which has a population of just over a crore, have been in the top 10 in the Olympics medal tally since Munich.

''One billion population (India) think of getting a silver or bronze in Olympics. We have to change this and to do that we have to provide basic sports facilities at the village school level.

''We have formulated a policy Panchayat Yuva Kendra aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA) to do this in the next 10 years. But the Planning Commission had slashed the amount of money we wanted to half.

''They (Planning Commission) further said we have to allocate money for the 2010 Commonwealth Games from that amount. So, it seems the objective can be achieved in eternity,'' he said sarcastically.


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