And, while the Commonwealth Games brought with them their own fair share of shame, athletes say that even badly organised international events leave an infrastructure legacy of some sort.
‘Overseas, swimmers have competitive events almost weekly,’ Sejwal says. ‘But we managed only four or five events a year. There’s nothing like swimming in your home town.’ And he adds that quantity doesn’t negate the need for quality as far as sports facilities go. He notes, for example, that that despite Delhi boasting more than a dozen Olympic-sized pools, few are suitable for training in that they’re either poorly maintained or regularly used for public events.
But building on the increased momentum behind infrastructure will anyway require more than just upgrading and improving facilities—it will also require a change in the way sport is viewed in India.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
‘The Indian psyche and Indian parent has always been deeply focussed on academics,’ says Aditya Kaura, a former management consultant who left his job last year to launch the LeapStart initiative. ‘But, the younger parents we interact with are much more open. There’s a clear shift, a definite appreciation that sport is a viable career.’
LeapStart works with 12,000 school students in five cities to focus on sports skills and fitness, including a physical education programme that starts with children in kindergartens. ‘If (parents) think their child has superior hand eye coordination, they now want to take that talent further,’ Kaura says.
And for many Indians, that’s where the hope for improvement now lies. In a sector that has been mired in inefficiency, recent achievements show the promise of a brighter sporting future. It’s initiatives like these that provide the plank from which athletes like Sejwal are taking their leaps of faith from.