1st BIMSTEC C’ships: India’s initiative to develop ‘sporting culture’ in Bay of Bengal region

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New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) India is hosting the BIMSTEC Aquatics Championships in the national capital which will see athletes from the Bay of Bengal region competing under several disciplines at the Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Pool complex starting Tuesday.

The sporting competition involving South Asian and Southeast Asian nations is said to be the ‘brainchild’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and over the next four days, it will see sportspersons from seven countries compete for top honours.

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) comprises five members from South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and two members from Southeast Asia (Myanmar and Thailand). The grouping was formed in 1997 to foster closer economic and social relations among member nations.

Kicking off the championship on Tuesday, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said that this will sow the seeds for sporting culture in a region that is home to about 1/4th of the world’s population.

“World’s 25 per cent population lives in South Asia and Southeast Asian region,” Thakur said while launching the water sports tournament.

Notably, Modi had announced the BIMSTEC Youth water sports competition at the 2018 Summit. The event was initially proposed for 2021, but its launch got deferred due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The BIMSTEC Aquatics Championships is seen as a ground-breaking initiative and experts are hopeful of this region emerging as a ‘breeding ground’ for new sporting talent.

Notably, the Bay of Bengal region is home to the world’s youngest population and the wide pool of conventional games here are fast becoming popular at the global level.

As India takes the lead role in ‘positioning’ this part of the world on the global sporting arena, the incumbent government deserves credit for its sustained focus and thrust on nurturing sporting talent in the country and in the Bay of Bengal region.

The Khelo India Youth Games, launched in 2017-18 for identifying and nurturing domestic sporting talent, is one such shining example of Modi government’s successful initiatives in the field.

Khelo India has been instrumental in selecting grassroots talent in two categories – Under 17 and Under 21 — and then preparing them for international sporting events. The ‘handpicked’ sportspersons are supported financially and provided adequate training facilities.

Moreover, the public applause and appreciation of sportspersons earning glory at international sporting events by PM Modi himself has done a great deal in shifting the nation’s priorities and help frame a positive opinion about sports as an ‘alternate career’.

Starting Tuesday, the BIMSTEC Championships will set the stage for a multi-nation sporting tournament and given its young demography, this may go on to develop the Bay of Bengal region as a ‘sporting powerhouse’.

The launch of BIMSTEC Aquatics Championships also speaks much about Modi government’s ‘Act East’ policy. Since India is the largest BIMSTEC member state in terms of population and economy, it will play a dominant role in shaping the priorities of the region besides fostering closer ties with the member nations.



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