New helmsman aims high

K. Govindaraj

K. Govindaraj  

THE KARNATAKA Olympic Association, the apex body of sports in Karnataka, now has a new and young helmsman. He is K. Govindaraj, who convincingly beat the incumbent, former sports minister Ajay Kumar Sarnaik, in the electoral sweepstakes and has ushered in a new era with his own team.

For Govindaraj, who in the late 60s represented Young Orions Basketball Club, the climb to the top has been as spectacular as it has been methodical. His love for sports pushed him to the Administrative wing in 1984 and five years later he became the secretary of the Karnataka State Basketball Association. His first notable success was to restore stability to the association. He was quick to move up the ladder at the Federation level as well. From his humble moorings as an Executive Member of the BFI, he has risen to be its Joint Secretary.

One of the notable contributions of Govindaraj was establishing the Indira Nagar Basketball Club. The Corporation Ground at Indira Nagar was converted into a court. He roped in donors to make the club vibrant and a viable one. The IBBC has produced a string of good State players and, to this day, remains a nursery for young talent.

Whether Govindaraj would use his well-honed administrative skills and vast experience to turn KOA into a purposeful and cohesive unit remains to be seen. But his biggest assets are his dedication and vision of the future.

New helmsman aims high

"Big goals are achieved only when there is vision," says Govindaraj .

"I give a lot of credit to my predecessors like K.A. Nettakallappa, Chikka Papapaiah, Shanth Kumar, and Sarnaik. They were all good administrators , who had done their best .But I want to move forward with a clear vision of making KOA a formidable force in Karnataka," says Govindaraj.

Often in the past, KOA had its share of differences with SAK (Sports Authority of Karnataka) and government agencies like the Directorate of Youth Services and Sports, but Govindaraj is determined to build bridges between the KOA, the affiliated associations and government agencies.

"We all share a common goal and we have to work together", says the new KOA chief.

"I have full confidence in my team and I am sure no one will shirk his share of responsibility when it comes to work,'' he says about his team.

There are plans galore. KOA's biggest achievement has been the hosting of the National Games in 1997 with the state of art infrastructure. But the Mega event also threw up several migrainal factors in the area of finances. A few years later, the KOA staged the first Southern Games. But since then there has been a painful lull. Govindaraj realises there has to be sustained activity and there has to be concrete result-oriented plans to make KOA tick again.

"We had National Games and built some good infrastructure. But they are not perfect, and a lot of upgradation is needed. Some of the facilities, after the National Games remain neglected, like floodlights and scoreboard. We spent crores and they are unused. It is because no one is really encouraged to conduct floodlit events. No one is getting them free. I feel all facilities at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium complex and other arenas should be thrown open free. They are for sportspersons, let them use them.'' argues Govindaraj.

"It is wrong to say that the Government would lose money if things are given free. When one makes Rs. One lakh a day by letting out the Indoor Stadium for commercial shows and business exposition, you can't say, there is no money. Those funds earned should go a long way in maintaining the facilities," says Govindaraj.

The KOA chief also moots a plan to build a multi-storeyed hostel wing at the stadium, which can accommodate 600 sportspersons at a time. "Lack of proper accommodation has been the bane of our stadia complex. We are unable to hold national events simply because we cannot provide them good accommodation. By having a good hostel at the venue, we can solve that problem."

Bangalore's pride: Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium.

Bangalore's pride: Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium.  

Govindaraj is of the firm view that hostelites at the stadium should not be charged at all. "The present move to collect Rs. 15 per head is a retrogade step and also the allowance given to the inmates, which is about Rs. 65, is meagre. It has to be enhanced appreciably."

Govindaraj felt that in the process of building new infrastructure, a couple of key factors were ignored. "For instance, the indoor stadium should have had wooden courts. I fought for it and I am still fighting for it and even the Chief Minister had okayed it and Rs.40 lakh was supposed to be earmarked for the conversion. But still nothing has been done. Similarly, they removed the cycling track at main stadium for the sake of expansion. The result is that we do not have anything for cycling at all in the City. We would like to see a veoldrome come up here or any nearby place like Anekal or Hoskote."

Another vision of Govindaraj is the creation of a Karnataka Olympic Bhavan. "We should have our own edifice, with guest rooms, a library, and a conference hall."

The new KOA team has already announced that it would take steps to ensure that the prest-igious Ekalavya award goes to the right people.

Govindaraj's line of thinking on the issue is that "norms are not followed properly and there should be strict guidelines for these awards. We also want Dronacharya awards to be instituted since we feel that without coaches there are no sportspersons".

Another issue on the KOA agenda is better incentives to National Games and national award winners. "They have not been honoured properly and they should be accorded recognition in time and what they should get should match their achievements," says Govindaraj . The KOA also has plans to take up issue of sports quota with the Government and the Education Department. "It is perplexing to find from this year that sports quota candidates have been ignored by several colleges. I feel sports should be made compulsory from eighth standard to the degree level. Marks should be awarded like it is done in China. It helps sports consciousness to grow in the State, maintains Govindaraj.

Govindaraj is also critical of the CET Cell's lopsided approach towards sports quota. "They are equating games like kabaddi and tennikoit with Olympic discipline like swimming, athletics volleyball or basketball. This should be reversed."

The KOA's other grandiose plans include revival of State Games, last held in 1998. Govindaraj would like to see these games held during Dasara.

His suggestion is that it can even replace the Dasara Games which has become a "money wasting" exercise of late.

The KOA is contemplating the idea of holding the State Games in Mysore and Mandya during October this year.

"Once we achieve the target of upgradation of infrastructural facilities, we would go in for big events like National Games and possibly international meets like SAF Games," says Govindaraj.

The KOA is planning to initiate a dialogue soon with the Government on all relevant issues regarding sports.

"The Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, has agreed to meet us and we will discuss in detail our ideas and seek his active support," says Govindaraj.

The KOA will try to convince the Government on the need to have a comprehensive sports policy. "There has to be a policy and direction for any development and sports is no exception. we wish to see the government evolve a sports policy and an eminent panel of sportsmen and administrators should formulate such a policy," contends Govindaraj.

Govindaraj's abiding principle is that in this age of crass commercialism, it is not just enough if one has only lofty ideals and a blueprint for action. Enough funds should be around to put them in shape.

"We are fully aware of the fact that without funds we are not going to get anywhere. We cannot also simply depend on Government help alone.

We are planning to talk to Bangalore-based MNCs for corporate support for our activities and our affiliated units," says Govindaraj .

Govindaraj has the zeal and the right attitude. He is also backed by a good team and it is upto him to lead from the front.

The flip side is that there are detractors, who wonder whether he can spare enough time on his agenda. But Govindaraj says he is quite firm on which way to go.

"All my life sports has taken precedence over every other thing and now that I have the opportunity to do something concrete, I will spare no effort. What I and other members of the KOA would like to see at the end of our term is Karnataka regaining its premier position in sports."


Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash Photos: Sampath Kumar G.P.

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