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Indian Board digs deep to boost Olympic hopefuls

CRICKET - OLYMPICS: NEW DELHI, Aug 30, 2008: - Olympic hopefuls in India have been given a massive boost after the country’s cricket chiefs said they would plough millions of dollars into helping nurture future medal winners.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the move was inspired by India’s showing at the Beijing Games, where they picked up three medals — beating their record of two — which included their first gold since 1980 and two bronzes.

The BCCI said it would donate 11 million dollars a year to the National Sports Development Fund, which was set up in 1998 by the government to mobilise resources for sports other than cricket, which is by far the most popular sport in the country.

Rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra won the country’s first ever individual Olympic gold in 10 metre event, while wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxer Vijender Kumar each won a bronze. The last time India took gold was in hockey at the Moscow Games.

“We contributed nearly one million dollars to support all our Beijing bound athletes,” BCCI chief executive Ratnakar Shetty told AFP on Monday. “But we have now decided to set aside eleven million dollars annually in view of the country’s show in the Beijing Games.

“This fund would be initially used to assist prospective medal winners in boxing, judo, swimming and archery.

But we are open to helping any other deserving sportsperson from any other discipline.” Shetty said the BCCI will soon announce a committee to make sure the money was not misused. “The credit for this unique initiative taken by the Board goes solely to our president Sharad Pawar, who first thought about it last year.

“After Pawar’s proposal, we amended the Board’s constitution as it did not provide for spending funds on any activity not related to cricket.” Shetty said the BCCI could afford to assist other sports since its income had almost doubled in the past three years.

“We increased our spending on infrastructure development manifold and also started a monthly gratis scheme for former players and officials.

After meeting all our targets, we decided to help other sports.” Sports Minister Manohar Singh Gill was quick to express gratitude, saying:

“BCCI is our richest sports body and Pawar has been kind enough to give an annual grant of eleven million dollars for development of Olympic sports. “This gesture, just when the country has done so well in the Beijing Olympics, will be welcomed by all our people and will give a boost to sports which have been suffering due to lack of adequate finances.”

The BCCI has also announced cash awards for the medal winning trio, with Bindra set to take home 60,000 dollars and the Kumars 23,000 dollars each.

Private funding started pouring in for disciplines other than cricket only recently after the government struggled to put aside money to raise sporting standards.

The situation was so bad that Indian shooting officials were on the verge of pulling the team out of the Beijing Olympics before the sports ministry and private sponsors stepped in.



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