India, February 22nd, 2023: Sports have been an integral part of world culture dating back as far as ancient civilizations. The most eminent example of sports culture and society, the Olympic Games are more than 3,000 years old. Sports have always had an extraordinary impact on society, culture, economy, and every other facet of a nation. For those engaged in sports, sports are the epitome of diligence, hard work, and dedication. In India, the sports sector has seen exponential growth and is considered to be the next big opportunity. With the best outcome at the Olympics and the Commonwealth games off late, India is on the rise, and all due to the best infrastructure and nutrition being provided to them. In the past few decades, we have witnessed countries such as America, Australia, and China invest heavily in the sports domain, especially at the grassroots level to develop community sports complexes and facilities. These facilities are available to their young population across schools, colleges, and universities. This has aided these countries to be some of the chart leaders and global sporting powers in world games with their athletes being able to practice at state-of-the-art infrastructure facilities.
When it comes to sports, the Northeast can least be ignored. Over the years the athletes from this region have held the Indian tricolor high. The Meghalaya Government run by the National People’s Party and the visionary Shri Conrad Sangma has seen an upsurge in Youth Affairs and Sports Infrastructure, besides significant other developments over the course of the last few years. Meghalaya has been a state that lives and breathes sports, especially football, since its inception in 1972 when it became a separate state from Assam. The state boasts of some international players that have represented the country in the past. It is seen that the state of Meghalaya is capable to produce several champion athletes in various sports. With a state-of-the-art sporting infrastructure that is being developed for various sports, the aspiration to develop sporting talent in the state is currently being effortlessly accomplished. The State Sports Policy of Meghalaya aims at promoting active participation in sports and physical activity as the central premise of Meghalaya’s culture, ethos, and way of life. The Government of Meghalaya believes that participation in sports and games improves the well-being and quality of life, brings social harmony, and promotes economic activities.
In their quest to earn more sporting laurels for the state, the Government has implemented 400 Grassroots Sports infrastructure projects which are under construction and several iconic sports stadiums like the much-awaited Football Stadium at the P.A. Sangma Sports Complex have been inaugurated in record time. The stadium invokes a great historical significance as it witnessed Tura Football League and Subroto Cup since its inception in the year 2006. The upgradation of this stadium has been a mammoth undertaking by the NPP Government in Meghalaya. The Stadium is a technological marvel, being the country’s largest pre-engineered composite football stadium with a sizeable seating capacity of 9500. The beautiful stadium is part of an equally magnificent Sports Complex built at a cost of ₹.127.7 Crore which is also nearing its completion. The Football Stadium and the two Indoor stadiums are built over a combined area of over 17,000 sqm. The Indoor Stadiums with Gymnasium, Swimming Pool, Table Tennis Hall, Squash Hall, and Badminton Hall have also been operational. Additionally, large infrastructures will also be ready in the next few months with JN Stadium (Polo Grounds Shillong) being upgraded, and Wahiajer Stadium and Indoor Stadium in Jongksha entering their concluding stages.
Sport is woven into the fabric of every community in the state. Traditional sports have been a part of every community’s lifestyle over the years, and it is seen to date that several communities still engage themselves in these traditional sports. Meghalaya has performed well in sports at the national and international levels in the past and has huge opportunities to develop more athletes in various other sports. With an aim to achieve laurels for the state, the “Meghalaya State Sports Policy 2019” is proposed with a commitment to excel in sports and to position Meghalaya as a leading sporting state in India. The State provides year-round, high-intensity, individual, event, and position-specific training. Teach athletes, who are now proficient at performing basic and sport-specific skills, to perform those skills under a variety of competitive conditions during training. Place special emphasis on optimum preparation by modeling competitions in training. Individually tailor fitness programs, recovery programs, psychological preparation, and technical development. Emphasize individual preparation that addresses each athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
The NPP government has launched a talent identification program for athletes. The program aims to identify talented athletes at a young and impressionable age and then hone their skills through curated training programs. In the first phase of the program, 4,600 children in the age groups of 10-18 were tested on international standards for their athletic abilities. The initial findings are very encouraging and dozens of kids whose athletic abilities are at par and even better than international benchmarks have been identified. Raksan Sangma, a 17-year-old boy from Southwest Garo Hills clocked 2.84 seconds in the 20-meter sprint against the international benchmark of 2.99 seconds.
To realize this vision, STAR Talent Identification Program was launched to identify sports talents and impart quality training as per international standards, to encourage Coaches and Athletes, Cash award Scheme has been initiated. Rs. 4 Cr have been disbursed benefitting nearly 3000 athletes. ASPIRE program was launched where 23,000+ youths were skilled in soft skills and life skills for confidence building and nurturing critical thinking. Sports Scholarship Scheme was initiated to award sports achievers. The incentive is being transferred every month to the sportspersons. Meghalaya Games was held after 16 Years while hosting the 2nd Northeast Olympics successfully as one of the best-hosted games in the history of the Northeast region.
Bearing testimony to the entire effort by athletes supported by Government, the 2nd Northeast Olympic Games was a remarkable success. The organization of this event is a testament to what the Northeast can do and the signs of what the Northeast can achieve in the times to come. There was a concerted and systemic effort behind the stupendous success of Team Meghalaya with unprecedented successes. Despite COVID, the NPP-led government continued supporting the athletes, ensuring that they get the best of facilities, training, and opportunity. The Government and the various sporting associations worked with a single-minded focus to emerge as champions. Meghalaya is now completely ready to host the National Games in 2023 and other international events. Meghalaya finished with a rich haul of 36 Gold Medals and an overall tally of 149 Medals.