MUMBAI: Lakshmi N Mittal is known the world over as a steel tycoon. On Tuesday, he revealed a steely resolve for a different kind of quest.
The London-based businessman pledged a whopping Rs 40 crore to the Mittal Champions Trust. The money is not going towards adding corporate addresses to his large empire; it aims to put Indians on the sporting map of the world.
Like always, Mittal, along with India’s established champions — trustees Mahesh Bhupathi, Rahul Dravid, Amit Bhatia and advisors P Gopi Chand and Bobby George — is thinking big.
Olympic medals and Asian Games glory is paramount on their minds. For them, the 2012 London Olympics is the culmination of their plans. The strategy is simple — 10 promising youngsters, starting with ace squash player Joshna Chinappa, will be picked and nothing will be spared to make them world beaters.
The need for doing more for Indian sport struck the world’s richest Indian when he witnessed the Athens Olympics. He was moved by the inspiring performances, but disappointed that India came back with only one medal — shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver.
Multiple Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi, managing director of Globosport (a sports and entertainment management company) rekindled the businessman’s passion for sport when he approached him in London in July. Four months down the line, the trust is up and running.
“I hope other industrial houses take a cue from what we are doing and do more for sports in India,” Mittal said on Tuesday.
For Joshna, who entered the senior circuit this year, the signing-up could not have come at a better time. “I am ranked No.60 (seniors) in the world now. This is my first full-year in the senior circuit and hence I have to play a lot of tournaments that will generate points and boost my ranking,” Joshana said. Amsterdam will become the squash player’s second home come January, where she will go to train under former World No.2 Liz Irwing. “Asian Games gold will be my next big target,” she said.
Others who have made a name for themselves are also in discussions with the trust. “We are looking at billiards and snooker champion Pankaj Advani and swimmer Shikha Tandon. Four athletes are also being short-listed,” Bhupathi said.
Plan of action
- Rs 40 cr marked for the Mittal Champions Trust
- Work with all sports associations
- Provide training to selected athletes in India and abroad, with focus on Olympic sports
- Board of advisors along with sportspersons and their families will chart out career plans
- Trust will cover all sports-related expenses, including training and nutritional expenses
- Criteria for selection will be performance, results, drive, commitment and potential
- Medals at Doha Asian Games, Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games are targets