The way ahead for Indian sports-Public Private Partnerships

There are certain factors external to the performance of sports-persons which defines the performance of a country in an international sports meet. According to the study, it is poor social mobility because of poor infrastructure that leads to poor performance at the Olympics. It cites the example of Portugal where improvement in radio communication supposedly improved Olympics performance due to increased social mobility, which allowed the exposure of rural talents to international sports.

Consider this, in the Beijing Olympics the Chinese government had invested around Rs 2030 billion for the event. According to officials about 95% of this amount was spent on infrastructure, energy, transportation and water supply projects. Whereas, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had allocated Rs.11.12 billion as the total sports budget for 2008-09, with special provision of only Rs.6.24 billion for preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Improvement of infrastructure is one area where Governments worldwide have often resorted Public-Private Partnerships. Examples related to such infrastructure development linked to sports are also not rare. In preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler the Government of British Columbia has resorted to PPP. Examples of projects in the region include highway construction projects and the building and operating of health care facilities. The private partner’s tasks are design, construction, finance and operations with minimal involvement by the government. The private entity earns returns through use fees or other revenue-generating or expense recouping features over a period of 25-40 years. Although such projects are very long-term and require heavy investment, the private partner receives a long stream of steady cash-flows and also earns new business opportunities.

Similarly, there are examples of private partners building and operating stadia as part of a PPP project. One notable example is the 90-feet tall Rice & Arlington Sports Dome in St. Paul, Minnesota. Inside Sports, a St. Paul-based company initially formed for building the dome, leases the facility and manages its day-to-day operations. Soon after opening, several softball, soccer, and baseball leagues were formed to play in the new dome. The dome was also used for private lessons, clinics, parties, and batting practice. Thus not only did the private entity earn a steady source of cash-flows, the new structure was a boon to the development of a culture for sports which otherwise would have struggled to develop.

These are but instances of ways that have the scope of improving the current status of how sports are treated in India. Such investment in sports-related infrastructure will imbibe a sport-centric culture, identify new talents and allow them to grow to meet international standards. Although the impact of such investments can’t be realised in the immediate future, but in the long-term this seems to be the most feasible option that is available. Also, PPP seems to be the most secure, fast and cost-effective way of such infrastructure development given the low levels of investment and involvement that the Indian government has traditional shown towards sports.

Author: Guest

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