Come August, a record Olympic medal haul won’t be India’s only target at Rio de Janeiro. On the sidelines of the multi-discipline showpiece event in Brazil, the government is planning to promote its flagship Make in India programme along with several other cultural and sporting initiatives, including an exhibition kabaddi match to showcase the sport as an Olympic discipline.
A committee of secretaries from multiple ministries met recently in Delhi to discuss the possibility of setting up a Hospitality House — a first for India at the Olympics — for the August 5-21 Games to showcase Indian art, culture, cuisine, tourism and the Make in India initiative.
The meeting included representatives from the ministries of external affairs, sports, culture and tourism, apart from officials linked to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Make in India initiative.
Sports Secretary Rajiv Yadav said that they had recommended a few properties to the government to set up the Hospitality House. “Our embassy in Brazil came up with this proposal. The Hospitality House will be used to project Indian culture, cuisine, tourism, etc in Rio. The committee discussed it recently and have requested MEA to coordinate it further so that the sports ministry can focus on the main contingent,” Yadav told The Indian Express.
The concept of a Hospitality Houses during the Games isn’t uncommon — the ‘Japan House’ will be used to promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympics while USA and Germany will be setting up similar centres, too. But since this is a first for India, the budget is being worked out by the ministry of external affairs and the rest of the committee.
The sports ministry is also close to renting an apartment near the Olympic Village, which will be primarily used to store the special diet needed by wrestlers, including milk and almonds.
The Indian Olympic Association and the sports ministry were initially keen to use it as a base to serve Indian food to the contingent and were planning to send a chef as well. However, the plan was shelved after the International Olympic Committee decided to include Indian food on their menu, including vegetarian options.
An IOA official said there were concerns over the food getting contaminated or any banned product accidentally consumed an athlete, which was also one of the reasons they decided not to send a chef.
The apartment will instead be made available to the athletes for recreation as well as other “special needs”. “It’s a special apartment for milk, almonds, etc., for wrestlers. Wrestling is a sport where they take this kind of diet because most of them are vegetarians and are dependent on it. There will also be a sitting lounge where they will can watch Hindi movies so that they can stay normal and feel at home,” Yadav said.
The government is also planning to showcase kabaddi as an Olympic sport by conducting exhibition matches on the sidelines of the Games. Kabaddi, which features in the Asian Games, has been trying to make a push for the Olympics but hasn’t made the cut so far.
By Mihir Vasavda