India has expressed strong interest in hosting the 2036 Summer Olympics, with the Prime Minister saying that India will leave “no stone unturned” in its efforts to bid for the dream of 140 crore Indians.

Though the Olympics is an attractive vehicle to showcase India globally, the country faces significant challenges.

While hosting the Olympics could help accelerate sports development in the long run, some numbers give grounds for why India must still prepare to take on such an enormous undertaking.

One of the major hurdles is India’s low spending on sports development. India spends only 0.1 per cent of its GDP on sports, far less than Western nations, which spend close to 1 per cent. With limited funding, India needs robust sports infrastructure, a solid grassroots programme for identifying and training athletes, and coaching staff needed to compete at the Olympics level.

Cost overruns

Hosting the Olympics is a complex and expensive undertaking frequently plagued by cost overruns. Every Olympics in recent decades has exceeded its budget by billions.

The 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Olympics went over budget by $41 billion, while the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games experienced approximately the biggest loss, at $2 billion. For a developing country like India, the financial liability of potential debt from cost overruns could be a heavy burden. There are also concerns about the environmental impact and disruption from large-scale construction of venues and infrastructure over a short period.

Valuable land may be diverted from more pressing priorities like housing and development and can have a huge socio-economic impact. A vivid example is the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which positively impacted the economy in the short run but significantly diverted resources from other sectors.

Hosting the Olympics could motivate greater sports participation, but 2036 may be too soon. A more prudent approach would be to continue strengthening sports at the grassroots levels through sustained funding increases over time.

Medals comparison

India should focus on regularly qualifying and winning medals at other global multi-sport events to prove its capabilities before considering an Olympics bid. India has won only 35 medals over the years compared to other Olympic giants like the US and Germany, which have crossed the 2000 and 1000 mark, respectively.

India compares unfavourably even with countries with similar economies such as China and Brazil, which have crossed the 700 and 150 medal mark, respectively.

These numbers are underwhelming and give us the ground reality of India’s sporting ecosystem and its long way to go.

Therefore, hosting after the necessary sporting ecosystem and financial security are established would make the venture more realistic and sustainable. There are also concerns about the need for a unified regulatory body overseeing all sports.

Currently, different sports federations operate independently with fragmented development and governance issues. Organising an Olympics requires centralised coordination, which may require more work under the current model. Establishing a new national sports commission first would lay the groundwork.

In conclusion, though hosting the Olympics has undeniable prestige, 2036 may be premature for India. A step-by-step approach focusing on sports development through long-term planning would serve the country better than an overly ambitious bid.

However, for 2036, India needs more time to strengthen itself as a sporting powerhouse.

Ramchandani is a Student, and Naik is Assistant Professor at Economics, FLAME University