Shillong, Mar 23: The state government will invest Rs 1,000 crore over the next five years in sports infrastructure projects at the block and district levels.

This was revealed today in the state budget for the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year.

“We will create a robust sports ecosystem to nurture future Olympians,” Chief Ministry Conrad K Sangma, who also holds the finance portfolio, said. “We will identify grassroots talents and provide world-class training opportunities. We will also develop sports infrastructure across the state, to engage and empower young people.”

The CM said that investment in sports infrastructure was “unprecedented” in the previous five years and will continue during the term of this Assembly with the goal of “developing Meghalaya as a national sports hub.”

Yesterday he told the house that Meghalaya wouldn’t be able to host the 39th National Games for six to eight years due to a backlog of Games meant to be held by other states. Recently, the Meghalaya State Olympic Association said that the state wouldn’t be ready until at least 2025 to hold the national event.

This next financial year will see ongoing work worth Rs 500 crore on new indoor stadium and renovations to the JN Stadium in Shillong, PA Sangma Sports Complex in Tura, Wahiajer Football Stadium, Ampati Stadium and Adokgre Stadium, North Garo Hills. These will be completed in the next two years.

In 2023-24, the government will initiate the construction of an aquatic complex equipped with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and competition-level tennis complexes in Shillong at an approximate cost of Rs 50 crore.

“With all this infrastructure, Meghalaya will be proudly able to host national and international events from 2025,” Sangma said.

At the block and district levels, the government will work on ensuring the availability of indoor stadiums, track and field grounds and football turfs, both natural and artificial, in all district and block headquarters over five years at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore. Work on several of these will begin in 2023-24.

The CM also announced that the Meghalaya Games will be an annual event and that this year’s edition will take place in Tura.

He also informed the Assembly that, according to a recent Meghalaya youth survey, 30% of respondents wanted to build a career in sports.

To further identify talent at a young age, the STAR programme that puts children through a series of standardised fitness tests will be expanded to reach 10,000 children in 2023-24. Candidates shortlisted through this programme will be provided scholarships and put through systematic training modules.

Sports academies with residential facilities for athletes will be set up at Shillong and Tura in 2023-24 and other districts in the following years, Sangma added.

Meghalaya had launched Mission Football in 2017 and the CM said that similar support will be provided to nurture other sports to promote excellence and make careers in sports more remunerative.

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