NEW DELHI: Invited for breakfast at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg on Monday, over 200 members of the Indian Olympics contingent to Tokyo spent two-and half hours in the company of host PM Narendra Modi, who made two specific requests from them— first, that they keep talking about malnutrition and ways to eliminate it and second, in keeping with the spirit of the ongoing ‘Amrit Mahotsava’, they visit at least 75 schools by August 15 next year to engage and encourage schoolchildren through sports.
In a departure from previous protocols for breakfast at the PM’s residence that usually involves a ceremonial address followed by a group photo, Modi met all the players one by one as he moved from one table to the other, some seating the hockey team, another the boxers, and similarly archers and track and field participants.
Players’ were served their favourite delicacies and promises made by the PM during the send-off to Tokyo were fulfilled. like for badminton bronze winner P V Sindhu who relished butterscotch ice-cream, after having denied herself the pleasure due to her strict fitness regime. Javelin gold winner Neeraj Chopra was also seen savouring “Churma”, which he had mentioned was his favourite comfort food. The invitees included medal winners, those who couldn’t end up in the podium, coaches and federation office-bearers.
There were lighter moments too like when the mike of swimmer Maana Patel stopped functioning. In a lighter vein, the PM said, “Your mike had to go quiet … You are next to a politician.”
“I feel honoured and fortunate to have met PM Narendra Modi today. You and your government have been very supportive to sports and I know that this will continue for years to come and we will get more medals for India,” tweeted bronze winning wrestler Bajrang Punia.
The PM told the Olympians that one of the positives of Tokyo is that the attitude of parents towards sports is changing and that he envisions a lot more parents supporting their children to pursue sports.
The PM told the athletes that he wanted to keep hearing from them on how to strengthen the sports infrastructure further in the years to come. He said they are free to write to him with suggestions.
In his interaction with bronze winning boxer Lovlina Borgohain, the PM said, “India must look at global benchmarks when it comes to infrastructure and training facilities.” The men’s Indian hockey team was all-smiles when they met the PM. The team recalled the phone call Modi had with the team after their loss. They said that it felt really great to get a call from the PM despite their loss and told him that it had boosted their morale.
The PM told them that for the people of India, hockey is synonymous with a lot of emotions and national pride, and that a medal in hockey makes 2020 very special. He told the hockey players that their performance was one among the greatest tributes possible to Major Dhyan Chand.
Modi also lavished praise on the women hockey players and hailed their efforts. He mentioned the captaincy of Rani Rampal and asked them not to worry about the failure to win a medal.
The Olympians were invited to the PM’s residence a day after they participated in the Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort as “Special Guests”. Sources said the PM told the Indian contingent that he is meeting them at a time when India is marking Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate 75 years of the country's Independence.
“Thus, the prime minister asked if each player could visit 75 schools by 15th August 2023,” an official said and added, “The PM said that he has two specific requests from the entire Indian contingent that went to Tokyo — to talk about malnutrition and ways to eliminate it and to play a sport with children of the school they visit.”