Lives of all sections of people have been affected one way or the other because of the lockdown that the government had to announce in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. One such segment of our society is that of the sportspersons, for whom remaining confined to the four walls of home for a long and uncertain period of time was so long totally unthinkable. But then, as harsh reality has been, sportspersons too, like all others, remained at home. The effect of Covid- 19 pandemic on sportspersons – like most other professions – has been also really astronomical. While the lack of competition is one dangerous scenario, the main challenge for sportspersons of all disciplines during the lockdown has been on their ability to retain their fitness, and maintain their physical and mental requirements in order to operate and compete at the highest level.
This was originally an Olympic year. And, thus, it is really difficult to imagine that sportspersons who were practicing hard for several months for a qualifying berth in the Indian contingent to the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 were suddenly compelled to stay indoors. So has been the case with all other sportspersons, for whom keeping fit and continuing practice and coaching are very important in this highly competitive world. With the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 – originally scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 9, 2020 – being moved to next year due to the developing global situation in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of sportspersons across the world have been pushed into an unprecedented situation. This was otherwise supposed to be their busiest time ever. They had already invested several hundred valuable hours in training to hone their skills, correct their weaknesses and strengthen their game.
In India too, sportspersons have been affected on a huge scale by the lockdown. With stadia and all kinds of sports activities including competitions and coaching remaining suspended, sportspersons are caught in a dilemma. Among those who have been particularly affected are those hundreds of sportspersons who were preparing for the Olympics and the trials and qualifying rounds as a run-up to the greatest show on earth. Similarly, many other sportspersons who were preparing for other international and national events and competitions have been also hit, as lockdown has brought life to a grinding halt.
It was keeping this situation and concern in mind that Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 3 held a video interaction with the country's top athletes, took stock of their problems, and discussed possible solutions. Later, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is also president of the Assam Olympic Association held an interaction with leading sportspersons and sports organizers of the state via teleconference and appealed to them to spread awareness in such times of crisis. Those who took part in the interaction ranged from Arjuna Bhogeswar Barua, who will be 80 later this year, to the teenager Shivangi Sharma. On April 26, the Chief Minister held another round of discussion, this time with office-bearers of Assam Olympic Association and a few upcoming players.
Chief Minister also took out time from his busy schedule to have telephonic conversation with a number of sportspersons and district-level office-bearers of different sports associations and asked them to keep themselves focused and help the players of their respective districts after the lockdown.
It is a fact that the society looks up towards sportspersons as role-models of discipline, hard work, perseverance, punctuality and character. Thus, while the government at various levels have been boosting the morale of the players, the activities of sportspersons in turn serves as a morale booster for the common people. It is true that sportspersons are also confined to their homes during lockdown. But then, their occasional appearance in various social media platforms as well as in the print and electronic media also provides a lot of fillip to the common people during the lockdown.
Thus, when Assam Olympic Association came up with the idea of a video clip to highlight how sportspersons of the state have been passing their time during the lockdown, all those contacted readily agreed to be part of it. The video, which was also a tribute to the corona warriors of the state, was released by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on May 18. Those who appeared in this video included athlete Hima Das, boxers Shiva Thapa, Lovlina Borgohain and Ankushita Boro, gymnast Bipasha Talukdar, shuttler Asmita Chaliha, swimmer Shivangi Sharma, shooter Hriday Hazarika and lawnball player Taniya Choudhury. All of them not only shared video clippings of their daily practice activities, but also sang the famous gospel song "We shall overcome" – which has over the decades transformed from a protest song to an inspirational chorus across the globe. The voice for the song, sung in three languages – English, Assamese and Hindi – was lent by noted singers Sangita Kakati and Anirban Das, and Anuoushka Baruah.
While several of our sportspersons are craving for a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics 2020 which will now be held only next year the AOA video definitely had a positive impact in the minds of the people. After all, sportspersons belong to that rare species which has the exceptional capacity and ability to face challenges, reach the peak of self-discipline, accrue most from positivity and generate among others a tremendous sense of confidence and self-belief – all of which are also essential tools to combat the spread of the Covid-19.
Authored by | Rajib Prakash Baruah