BCCI to donate $11m for Olympic hopefuls

New Delhi, August 25:

Olympic hopefuls in India have been given a massive boost after the country’s cricket chiefs said they would plough millions of dollars into helping nurture future medal winners.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the move was inspired by India’s showing at the Beijing Games, where they picked up three medals — beating their record of two — which included their first gold since 1980 and two bronzes. The BCCI said it would donate $11 million a year to the National Sports Development Fund, which was set up in 1998 by the government to mobilise resources for sports other than cricket, which is by far the most popular sport in the country.

Rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra won the country’s first ever individual gold in 10m event, while wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxer Vijender Kumar each won a bronze. The last time India took gold was in hockey at the Moscow Games.

“We contributed nearly one million dollars to support all our Beijing bound athletes,” BCCI chief executive Ratnakar Shetty said. “But we have now decided to set aside $11m annually in view of the country’s show in the Beijing Games. This fund would be initially used to assist prospective medal winners in boxing, judo, swimming and archery. But we are open to helping any other deserving sportsperson from any other discipline.”

Shetty said the BCCI will soon announce a committee to make sure the money was not misused. Shetty said the BCCI could afford to assist other sports since its income had almost doubled in the past three years.

Sports Minister Man-ohar Singh Gill said: “This gesture, just when the country has done so well in Beijing, will be welcomed by all our people and will give a boost to sports which have been suffering due to lack of adequate finances.” The BCCI has also announced cash awards for the medal winning trio, with Bindra set to take home $60,000 and the Kumars $23,000 each.