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Published on: July 26, 2021, 12:11 p.m.
Soaring faster, higher, stronger…
  • Chanu: lifting silver, uplifting the nation’s glory

By IGNATIUS ALBUQUERQUE

It was a hugely uplifting moment for the Indian sport, when the biggest ever Indian contingent comprising 128 athletes got off to its most magnificent start of all time at the biggest sporting extravaganza, the Tokyo Olympics. In the 23rd edition of the Olympic Games, a humble and affable slip of a girl, who answers to the name of Mirabai Sukhom Chanu, wrote her name in gilded letters, lifting the silver in the 48 kg (women) weightlifting event on the first day of the competition.

All in all, it was a mixed first day for the Indians at the games, which had been postponed by almost a year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, that held the entire world in its vice-like grip. No doubt, medals of different hues will be picked up by the persevering and hardworking Indians in the next two weeks, but it is only fair to view the various sponsorships of the India team in its financial context.

Undoubtedly, unlike in the much ballyhooed game of cricket, not too many brands were falling over themselves to be counted as Indian Olympic sponsors. But, right in the thick of it was the cash-rich BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), which offered $1.35 million as financial support to the country’s National Olympic Committee, which had dropped the Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning as its official kit partner, citing public sentiment ahead of the Tokyo Games.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had wound up its Rs60 million deal with Li Ning two months before it was due to expire, after the Tokyo Games. According to BCCI, it hoped the ‘financial gesture’ would help Indian athletes bring home a record number of medals from Tokyo. “The BCCI wishes all the athletes representing India in the Olympics all the very best and hopes that they return with more medals than ever before,” its message had said.

Now that the connection between cricket and the Olympics has been fairly established, let us look at some of the other noted sponsors, who have thrown their hats in the Olympic sponsorship ring. Coming on board as the principal sponsor in a deal worth about Rs80 million, which includes not just the ongoing Tokyo Games but also the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, scheduled for next year is the MPL (Mobile Premier League) Sports Foundation.

Spending heavily

The MPL Sports Foundation, for those not in the know, is the community arm of the Mobile Premier League (MPL), an e-sports platform. An e-sports and skill-gaming platform, MPL batted aggressively during the course of the Indian Premier League. The brand had spent heavily during the matches, both on TV and digital. It is also the official kit sponsor for the Indian cricket national team and has a massive presence on various advertising forums. The IOA has revealed that, the contract, set to continue right up to 31 December next year, will be to the tune of Rs8 crore.

Another firm, Sports For All (SFA), too was named the official partner for the Indian team. As in the case of MPL, this also is a long-term contract and the SFA founders Rishikesh Joshi and Vishwas Choksi are over the moon, seeing the success of their endeavour to support Team India for the upcoming Olympic Games, the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

“SFA, with its technology-driven platform and mega-scale, on-ground multi-sport competitions at school and college level, will empower and enable our children and youth to pursue their best sporting potential,” says Rajeev Mehta secretary general, IOA. “It thereby fuels India’s Olympic dreams.” 

SFA has come up with a fully integrated phygital (combination of online and on-ground) platform that enables on-ground competitions, as well as sports education through technology. This helps identify, nurture and empower athletes across 30 disciplines of sport with the right set of experiences and tools. SFA has promised the IOA a sponsorship amount of Rs1 crore.

And, in a bid to garner a piece of the sizable Olympic pie, the JSW group and dairy product brand Amul too have come on board as partners for Indian contingent, each bringing in Rs1 crore to the table.

With an event that targets sporting excellence in a host of fields and disciplines, the Olympics is being held on this occasion after five years and not four, as it should have been. And, it has attracted other big names for sponsorship, with Herbalife too joining the brand-wagon of the Indians. "Herbalife has confirmed its sponsorship of Rs2.25 crore to IOA," adds Mehta.

Adani also will be one of IOA's sponsors. The association announced on 23 July that it has roped in the Adani group as a sponsor for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the future. To this mix may be added the names of Edelweiss, INOX group and Nippon Paint as national sponsors and also Bridgestone Tyres, with Raymond being the official styling partner.

No doubt, there will be no crowd in Tokyo. But the absence of spectators at the Tokyo Games will be covered by a fair crowd of sponsors, ever-willing to unleash their purse-strings for an Olympic cause! Now, it is up to the Indian athletes to together soar faster, higher and stronger – reminiscent of the words of the Dominican priest Henri Didon, who first expressed the words at the opening ceremony of a school sports event in 1881.

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