Assam Girl Gets Generation Games To India, Believes It Could Boost The Concept of Social Inclusion And Sports-For-All
For some time now Rajashree Bhattacharyya has been working on grassroot development of sports in Assam and Bihar. In between she went to Switzerland for her Masters Degree in Sports Administration and Technology, which is when she built some rather important professional acquaintances. One of them being the founder of Generation Games, a rather interesting community sporting evening that was started in Netherlands. The games have been organised in cities such as Lausanne, Oslo, Rotterdam, Tampere, Lillehammer, Salem, Amsterdam and Budapest. Seeing a unique opportunity and a beautiful fit with the Indian ethos, Rajashree worked towards getting the format to India through her organisation Akshayam. The first ever Generation Games in India is set to be held in her hometown Guwahati.
We had a brief chat with her to know more about the games and how she believes this could boost sports awareness and give a shot towards building a more inclusive society.
Let us first congratulate you on bringing Generation Games to India. This is the first time something like this is being attempted in India. How did you get the owners of the format in Europe to give the rights to you for India?
On behalf of ‘Akshayam’ and our venue partner South Point School, thank you very much! Yes, the very first time in India and we are extremely grateful to have the support of athletes and coaches not only from Guwahati but also from Hyderabad.
The most significant information about the ‘Generation Games’ that I would share with your readers in response to your question is that there is no licence fee involved. And, participation is absolutely free. The creative concept is passed on from the founder to the host city. As organisers, we have the creative liberty to adapt the concept to fit our cultural ethos. Isn’t that great?! Of course, the founder is constantly supporting and guiding us in the process.
For the awareness of our readers, would be able to elucidate on how the Generation Games works?
The ‘Generation Games’ encourage people of different ages to spend time together to celebrate sport! Participants have to play as a team of 2 to 6 people, which must include more than one generation. There may be sisters, fathers, grandparents, aunts, cousins and neighbours. Team members do not have to be members of the same family as long as they want to move and play together with one another.
The teams travel around the zones/ stalls set up for different Sport and collect points in the scorecard provided to them at the time of entry at the venue.
A team must play 4 to 5 sports to collect points.
Teams that fulfill the above criteria will submit their scorecard to participate in a lucky draw to win attractive Generation Games and other attractive merchandise!
For the Guwahati edition, we will be offering participants over 12 sports to play. This will include international as well as ethic games like ‘Tekeli Bhonga’ and ‘Marble-in-Spoon Race’. We are contemplating ‘Pillow Fight’ as well! Plus, a sports quiz. we are introducing two new sports – korfball and parkour.
It can be a one day or a couple of day’s long event. It is up to the host city to decide.
You are starting off with Guwahati. Is there any reason, except that you are from the city, why you may have chosen it as the first Indian city where Generation Game is held? Are you looking at taking it to other states as well?
I volunteered for the Games in its 2015 Lausanne edition. The concept clicked for me. Families were playing together and competing with other families in a friendly and festive atmosphere. Local people volunteered and made the experience memorable. Our ‘Bohag Bihu’ community sport and cultural events are somewhat similar. Hence, I felt it will definitely work in Assam. For the first Guwahati edition, we see this as a social experiment with specific message about social inclusion, age-friendly city, and sport-for-all. Based on queries we have received so far, New Delhi could be the next Indian city.
How has the reaction been from schools as well as sponsors?
We approached three schools. One of them didn’t comprehend the concept while the other two have been constantly supportive. We chose South Point School as the venue because of its facilities and most importantly the collaborative attitude of its management.
Our partners for the Generation Games have provided in-kind support in the spirit of the Games. Inclusion is one of the core messages that we want to deliver through the Games. we are honoured to have the support of Shishu Sarothi, an organisation that specialises in disability rehabilitation and advocacy for social inclusion.
Financial Sponsorship is open but we have not directly approached anyone yet.
How do you see a concept like this fitting into the Indian scenario?
I have shared the concept with people from wide-ranging background for almost 6 months now. The intergenerational aspect attracts nearly everyone. The free-for-all concept shocks many though. It’s interesting. The response to the Guwahati edition will set the benchmark for us to be able to answer this question because what works in Guwahati may not work elsewhere. we will have a better answer in a month.
You have been working on sports development at the grassroots level in Assam and Bihar some time. What do you see as lagging when it comes to a larger awareness towards sport in the country?
The correct phrase is ‘sport for development’. It’s a practice that uses sport as a medium for achieving development goals.
I am taking the liberty of putting forward a biased view here because no matter how much I have seen or experienced the practice or business of sport worldwide, whenever I visit a small Indian small town or a village, the state of sports that I witness is appalling. General awareness about sports is a myth. In schools, and I am not talking about the private sector and central government ones, children have negligible access to quality sport and physical activity. It’s a critical issue that calls for urgent measures. India is not a multi-sport playing nation and that is her greatest drawback when it comes to global achievement (read Olympics) and general fitness. In the first 10-12 years of their life, every child needs to play as many sports as possible so that a strong pool of physically literate teens in every nook and corner of the country is available for talent hunters to spot and further nurture train them in a specific sport.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has recently said that sport may become compulsory in schools. That is a good statement to begin with.
The Generation Games in India is being organised by your NPO (non-profit organisation) Akshayam. What is the vision with which Akshayam was started?
Akshayam was founded in 2012 as a non-profit organisation (NPO) by three friends to work for the promotion and development of Sport, Culture and Tourism through meaningful educational interventions. I am responsible for our recently launched ‘Sport for Development’ project in Bihar. In Assam our Chess unit, Assam Chess Club, is active in promoting the sport by organising regular tournaments and setting up Chess excellence centre. We also support educational institutions in establishing their Chess clubs. We are in the process of restructuring this year and in 2018, we hope to begin work in the culture and tourism division. ‘Sport for Development’ in Assam is also in the pipeline.
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