New Delhi: Responding to India’s performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the country won only two medals—a silver and a bronze—despite sending its biggest contingent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the government will form a task force to draw up an action plan for the next three Olympics.

India had been hoping to win at least 10 medals across disciplines at the Rio Games, where it sent a 118-strong contingent. In the 2012 London Olympics, India had won six medals. Poor infrastructure and training facilities for athletes and political interference in sports have been flagged as reasons for the poor performance.

“PM Narendra Modi announced at the meeting of the council of ministers today that a task force will be set up to prepare a comprehensive action plan for effective participation of Indians sportspersons in the next three Olympic games – 2020, 2024 and 2028," said an official statement.

“The task force will prepare overall strategy for sports facilities, training, selection process and other related matters. The task force will comprise of members who are in-house experts as well as those from outside. The PM said that the task force will be set up over the next few days," the statement added.

The next Olympics are scheduled to take place in Tokyo in 2020.

During the Rio Olympics (5-21 August), on the first 12 days India did not win a single medal although it came painfully close to winning one at least thrice – Abhinav Bindra in shooting, Dipa Karmakar in gymnastics and Sania Mirza/Rohan Boppanna in the bronze medal playoff match in tennis. It only got a boost after wrestler Sakshi Malik won a bronze and badminton star PV Sindhu won a silver.

Experts said the formation of a task force was a step in right direction but stressed the need to keep out political interference.

“If government is serious about it one has to have right people at right place. The task force should have India’s sports legends. All sports people have to be in such a task force, the task force’s recommendations should be binding, it should be an autonomous body and should have some resources at its disposal. Task force should have freedom and it would need various smaller groups to implement its ideas," said sports lawyer and activist Rahul Mehra.

Mehra suggested opening up of public spaces to inspire children to play sports and then create infrastructure so that they can move towards playing for their districts, states, and at the national and international level.

“When a player like Sachin Tendulkar started playing in local parks during his childhood he would not have thought of becoming world’s best cricketer. Basically, all former and current players need to be involved to improve condition of sports in the country. We need sports schools and universities too. But a task force will be meaningless if it will be without sportspersons and without any freedom," Mehra added.

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