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Minister also urges people to come out in support of these athletes in large numbers.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju reiterated that India's Olympic-bound athletes are national heroes and urged the people to extend support to these players in the same way they follow cricketers in the country. Rijiju was speaking at a virtual interaction organised by CII-Sportscom Industry Confederation in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to create awareness regarding India's preparation for Tokyo 2021 Olympics and Paralympics.
Announcing a Cheer Up Campaign across the country, the Union Sports Minister said over 6000 Selfie Points will be set up where people can show their support. "I have spoken to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and he immediately deployed space across 6000 railway stations across the country where Olympics Selfie Points have been set up. The Chief Minister of Haryana has also clicked a selfie photograph with the symbol to encourage others to join the campaign and encourage the Tokyo-bound players."
"I wanted the Olympics movement and the importance of Olympics to be understood by everyone, spread across the length and breadth of India. Sports is the biggest soft power of a nation," he added.
The number of Indian athletes participating in the Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games have seen a steady rise in the past three editions. Over 100 athletes have already made the cut so far and many more are expected to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The Sports Minister also emphasised on the role that the government has played along with federations and players in creating a conducive atmosphere for the sportspersons to strive for excellence.
Speaking during the interaction, former hockey international MM Somaya appreciated the government's role in supporting the federations with regards to coaching and other facilities. "We have some of the world's best coaches involved with hockey these days and our boys and girls are in good hands," he said, adding that he was hopeful that India could challenge for a medal in Tokyo.
Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand spoke about how the athletes were more confident in their abilities than their compatriots in the past and underlined the role of the government in making this change possible. "Today I can confidently say that every member of the team is training to be in their best form and possibly win a medal and if they don't have a medal or have good performances, I am sure they are going to be very disappointed."
The session was attended by key speakers Mr Jalaj Dani, President Sportscom Industry Confederation, Dr Deepa Malik, Rio 2016 Silver Medallist and President of Paralympics Committee of India, Mr Pullela Gopichand, chief national coach Indian badminton team, Mr MM Somaya, former Indian hockey captain and member of 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medallist hockey team, Mr Gagan Narang, bronze medallist of London Olympics (2012) and Mr Vivek Singh, Senior Vice President, Sportscom Industry Confederation, and Joint MD of Procam International. The event was moderated by Mr Viren Rasquinha, former Indian hockey captain and CEO, Olympic Gold Quest.