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Jayalalithaa: A staunch advocate and promoter of sports at every level

Amma had spent crores for the development of sports in India.

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Vishwanathan Anand receiving the World Championship runners-up trophy from Amma in 2013

J Jayalalithaa’s death on Monday triggered an outpour of grief across the nation and the sporting world too. Affectionately called ‘Amma’ by people in Tamil Nadu and AIDMK supporters, the Chief Minister used to be an athlete in her schooldays and saw to the fact that sports is inculcated into the fabric of the schools across the state. 

Amma was also an avid follower of sports. According to Deccan Herald, Basketball Federation of India president K Govindaraj said condoling her demise, “Basketball was her first love. She could speak at length about the game.”

She also keenly followed the progress of sportspersons, be it in athletics, tennis, hockey or para-sport.

Jayalalithaa was critical in the cultivation and development of sports in our country, both domestic and internationally. The 2013 World Chess Championship match between Vishwanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, wouldn’t have taken place if not for her government’s financial backing. Earlier in 1995, South Asian Federation Games that took place in Chennai was also organised under her patronage.

The sporting facilities in Chennai stand testimony to her interest and vision, and the sportspersons themselves have enjoyed firm backing from the lady who took immense interest in their performances. “Her warmth and respect to sportspersons were remarkable,” tweeted former world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand.

In an effort to promote sports activities in the state, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu had announced a series of welfare measures in 2013. She allocated Rs 5 crore to renovate the tennis stadium at Nungambakkam and establishing an integrated sports complex at Nehru stadium in the city at a cost of Rs 12 crore.

In a bid to encourage sports activities in rural areas, Jayalalithaa also announced the introduction of state games for Chief Minister's trophy. The winner would bag Rs. one lakh cash prize and a gold medal.  The addition of this royal award system used to cost the exchequer Rs 2.57 crore every year.

She also allocated funds for the infrastructural development such as lodging and boarding facilities. Other measures included setting up of gym facilities for secretariat staff at a cost of Rs 50 lakh, enhancing salaries for trainers from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000, renovating various stadiums in the state at a cost of Rs 5 crore and establishing a separate training academy for National Cadet Corps.

She was also amongst the first to reach out to sportspersons for any notable performance and used to shower them with cash prizes. 

India’s long jump record holder Anju Bobby Geoge said, “When it came to cash awards for sportspersons, she set the benchmark. When I won the bronze medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, she announced a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh, which was unheard of at that time.”

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