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Rio Olympics 2016: Indian Sports Minister expects medal tally to touch double digits

A platform for Olympians to take care of each other's needs was unveiled on Monday.

OAI launch
Athletes at the launch of the Olympians Association of India

The first representative body of Olympians in India, The Olympians Association of India (OAI) was formally launched on 4th July in the presence of more than 100 Olympians on Monday. Honourable Minister of Sports Jitendra Singh and Silver medalist and current Minister of Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore  was also in attendance in the event that took place in Delhi. The OAI is the first and only non-profit organization by Olympians in India and is directly affiliated to the World Olympians Association under the International Olympic Committee. 

Founded by names that have made the nation proud at Olympics like Shiva Keshavan, Viren Rasquinha, Saina Nehwal among others, the OAI proposes to look after the welfare of former and current Olympians through their careers. 

Minister of Sports Jitendra Singh gave his thumbs up to the initiative. Speaking at the event, he said "A medal has a much wider impact for a nation and it goes beyond just the realm of sports. We have huge expectations from our contingent this time, who will also be going as the ambassadors of the country.” The 59-year old who got the portfolio of the ministry of sports and youth affairs just a couple of weeks back was optimistic about the country's chances at Rio.

“The tally should at least touch 2 digits this time”, he said with a smile. Earlier on Saturday, he had announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for ailing Olympic gold medalist Mohammed Shahid, who is undergoing treatment for serious liver and kidney ailment at Medanta Medicity in Gurgaon.

All Indian Olympians will be registered members and will contribute to the cause and at the same time mutually benefit from projects initiated by the OAI. The initiatives include an outreach programme, education and skill development programme, Health Insurance and pension program for Olympians who have represented India in the past. The OAI will also be looking into Mentorship Program for budding sportsmen in the country.

One of the best law firms Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. will be offering free legal advice and support to the Olympians as a part of a tie-up with the OAI. The not for profit organization will also be looking to get the Olympians employment opportunities in industries they desire to be a part of after their sporting careers are over. 

Also Read: Rio Olympics 2016: Indian qualification list

“We emphasise on the collaboration between Indian Olympians and the Sports Ministry, SAI, IOA and other sporting organisations in the country. Only if we work together as a team can we effectively improve our sporting legacy,” said Malav Shroff, who also serves on the SAI Mission Olympic Cell.

The initiative was praised by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who congratulated the Olympians who made OAI possible. He said, “It is only surprising that such an initiative took so much time given that we have such unique and accomplished Olympians in our country. These are people who have overcome so many problems in life so it is only natural that they have taken such a wonderful initiative. He also reflected on the amount of change that sports in India has seen over the past two decades. There has been a tremendous change from 1998 when I started representing India to 2016. During that time, the hope was to get a single medal in Olympics, and now here we are talking of double digits.” 

Being someone who clinched silver in Athens Olympic in 2004, he had some words of advice for the members of the Rio bound contingent sitting in attendance. “You’ll face the same opponents, same target, same rings that you’ve faced in other championships. All that you need to do is just keep yourself focussed,” said Rathore before launching the website for the organisation.

The event was also attended by International Olympic Committee member and Athletes Commission Chairperson Claudia Bokel and World Olympians Association Treasurer and IOC Athletes Commission Member, Patrick Singleton. 

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