With COVID-19 crisis creating uncertainty everywhere, the Odisha government on Tuesday said the unprecedented situation must be used as an opportunity to adopt innovative methods and reassess priorities to revive the sports ecosystem.
This was stated by Odishas Sports and Youth Services Minister Tusharkanti Behera during an interaction Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju had with sports ministers and senior officials of different states and union territories through video conference.
Laying emphasis on the significant role that innovation, collaboration and technology can play in reviving the sports ecosystem, Behera shared the initiatives that the Odisha government had undertaken to resume sports and, being a sports hub, the possible way forward for its authorities and stakeholders to adopt.
“Owing to the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, sports fraternities across the nation are in a constant dilemma regarding the uncertain future. However, the recent relaxation by the central government and guidelines laid down by SAI has brought in some positivity for all stakeholders,” he said.
Behera said the sports sector has to treat this as an opportunity to innovate, to rethink policies and to reassess priorities and best practices from across the world are being considered to chart a course ahead.
Stating that Odisha has taken initiative to facilitate a partial but safe resumption of sporting activities, the minister said detailed SOP had been issued as per the guidelines of the central government across sports facilities in the state.
“Elite athletes have resumed training at the Kalinga stadium and we have planned resumption of training across sports complex and facilities, in a phased manner,” Behera said.
All Covid-19 protocols are being followed during coaching, including daily thermal screening and periodic sanitisation of play field/pitch and residential complexes, he added.
For swimming, the state is resorting to strength and conditioning training, while sports hostel inmates are benefitting from webinars and personal guidance from coaches on mental and physical conditioning.
Coaches are being aligned with SAI and other educative sessions through the online medium, he said.
On the way forward for the resumption of sports, Behera shared his views on how the state plans to reorient its strategy and strengthen the sports scenario across districts to benefit the sportspersons and the sports lovers of the State.
In the future, certain elements of sports training that can continue to happen online, and can be offered to trainees and sportspersons through different models will get integrated into the training regime, he said adding that technology will play a key role in reducing operation costs and enhance knowledge sharing.
Stating that the sports events scenario is gradually opening up in the state, Behera said FIFA has announced the dates for FIFA U 17 Womens World Cup in Feb-March 2021.
“We will work closely with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the tournament and implement strictest of safety norms,” he said.
It is impotant to prioritise the health of athletes and sports staff and adhere to precautionary measures and guidelines ensuring maximum health protocols.
Administration will develop comprehensive event and venue health and safety guidelines for all involved in such sports events.
This will include facilitating sanitisation by-laws, upgrading building guidelines and incorporating social distancing norms, which could be added to venue house rules and contracts, he said.
“In addition, we may have to accept closed stadia as the new normal. We foresee a transformation in sports broadcasting and consumption of sports content in the future. Technology and Content on OTT platforms will play a crucial role in engaging and entertaining the fans through digital innovation,” the sports minister said.
Since sports remains a priority sector, the government will continue to develop and strengthen sports infrastructure to make sports inclusive and accessible to all.
While several key projects, including the development and renovation of pitches for the FIFA U17 Womens World Cup have resumed, the Mens Hockey World Cup 2023 is ahead and work towards it has commenced, Behera added.