Thinley Namgay 

The government has allocated Nu 1 billion for the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) to develop sports in the country in the 13th Plan.

This is the highest budget the BOC has ever received from the government so far.

Compared to the 12th plan budget of Nu 294 million (M), the current budget has increased by more than three times. 

BOC’s senior programme officer, Tshering Zangmo, said the funds would be used primarily to ensure international standard sports infrastructure development in the country.

The long-term aim of the BOC is to make Bhutan one of the regional sporting hubs by investing more in infrastructure.

Today, only two sports arenas in Bhutan have the potential to host regional tournaments – the aquatic centre at Babena, Thimphu, and the international cricket ground in Gelephu.

One of the key plans Tshering Zangmo highlighted is the building of an international-standard cricket stadium at Debsi in Thimphu at a cost of Nu 667M.

An indoor international-standard sports arena will be developed at Changrama, above Debsi. This will host multiple games in a single facility. Indoor games include volleyball, basketball, badminton, table tennis, boxing, karate, and taekwondo, among others.

The third key plan is to establish a National Sports Science Centre (SSC) at Changlimithang in Thimphu. SSCs are popular in other countries and play a vital role in enhancing athletic performance, promoting health and wellness, and advancing research in sports.

The SSC will provide various facilities related to performance enhancement, injury prevention and rehabilitation, adaptation, and health and fitness promotion, among others.

Tshering Zangmo said the existing Olympic Archery Centre at Langjophakha would be upgraded with additional facilities.

 She said the BOC considered the potential of sports before making investments. “In the 13th plan, the BOC will also invest in human resources and athletes’ development.”

Currently, football, cricket, archery, and taekwondo are viewed as promising sports in the country.

This year’s maximum budget allocation reflects the government’s commitment to sports development. In the 13th plan, sports development has been grouped under the social sector alongside health and education. Given these mandates, a substantial budget is necessary to meet the objectives set for this cluster.

In addition to Nu 1 billion, the government has also agreed to provide a block grant to the BOC. Historically, the BOC has received annual block grants from the government, with the amount contingent upon the economic conditions of the country.

The BOC expects to receive a block grant this month. The grant has been playing a crucial role in human resource and athletes’ development so far.

Besides block grants, the BOC also seeks international support. Some of the primary supporters are the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia.

Football is one of the most popular sports in the country. Bhutan Football Federation’s (BFF) media and marketing head, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that BFF had planned a few infrastructure projects such as the renovation of Changlimithang Stadium, the development of BFF headquarters at Babena, and building artificial turf in Sakteng, Trashigang.

Despite improvements in infrastructure and the involvement of youth in sports, there are some pertinent issues related to sports as per athletes and sports enthusiasts.