BOC takes steps to popularise sports in-country and assimilate them into people’s lifestyles

COVER STORY: For sportspersons, hard work and dedication are all that matters.  Even the most naturally gifted cannot rise to the pinnacle without some earnest effort.

And sports are good, not just for the physical wellbeing of an individual, but also for building a sense of community.  We saw recently how football brought us together like never before.  Sports help to bridge cultural and ethnic divides, create employment and businesses opportunities, promote tolerance and non-discrimination, reinforce social integration, and promote healthy lifestyles.

As a country that opened up quite late, Bhutan quickly made efforts to adopt international sports.  It started with the creation of a National Sports Association of Bhutan in the 1970s.  Since then, the country has come a long way.

Bhutan took part in its first-ever Olympics in Los Angeles, USA, with a contingent of 6 archers in 1984.  That was a year after the establishment of the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) in 1983.  The BOC is one of 205 national Olympic committees created by the Olympic organisation, with the objective to develop, promote and protect the Olympic movement in a particular country.  Today, 15 national sports federations are affiliated to BOC.

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Badminton popular: Dechen Choden of Kelki school wins the under-19 girls singles. (file Photo)

Sonam Karma Tshering, secretary general of BOC, said that sports were gaining momentum in the country today. “We should capitalise on this momentum and help in the development of sports for generations to come,” he said.  A BOC committee is planning to set up six more federations – handball, swimming, chess, judo and karate, cycling and baseball.

Highlighting the importance of grassroots-level initiative for the development of sports, Sonam Karma Tshering said the BOC was also looking at reviving the dzongkhag sports association (DSA).  DSAs will be the bodies to conduct tournaments and trainings at the dzongkhag level. 

“We’re considering 10 DSAs at the moment,” he said.

And, the government has been very supportive.  The budget allocated to the BOC to be circulated among the existing federations has doubled within seven years.  From Nu 40.97M (million) in 2008-09, the budget has reached Nu 95.98M for 2014-15.

According to Bhutan Sports Baseline, a survey conducted by BOC, the department of youth and sports, vocational and technical institutes, and affiliated colleges of the Royal University of Bhutan together have 465 volleyball courts, 322 football grounds, 204 badminton courts, 169 basketball courts and 139 table tennis courts.

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A participant attempts a Dolly chagi (roundhouse kick). (file Photo)

The survey found that about 30 percent of volleyball courts, 33 percent of football grounds, 38 percent of badminton courts, 75 percent of basketball courts and 48 percent of table tennis courts are located in urban areas.

Sonam Karma Tshering said that BOC was planning to put up artificial turf in Mongar, Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Bumthang and Trashigang.

Dorji Wangmo, a private employee, said that, with the increasing risk of lifestyle diseases, the need to keep oneself fit and healthy had never been important than it was now. “I don’t get time to go to gym and work out, but I always make a point to play some games during weekends,” she said.

Dorji Wangmo is a keen badminton player.  She said that facilities, like the indoor badminton courts in the country, are very convenient for people, who spend almost the whole day in office, to get some exercise.

Tenzin Thinley, an athlete, said that the synthetic athletic track at the track and field centre in Thimphu has helped him improve with his performance. “Not only is the place convenient for people to run and jog, but it’s also a lot safer than running alongside the highway,” he said.

Although traditional games and sports form an integral part of the Bhutanese lifestyle, modern sports, such as football, basketball, golf, tennis, badminton, boxing, shooting, volleyball and martial arts, have gained prominence in the country.   

The country has been sending competitors to the Olympics and the Asian Games ever since Bhutan joined the international sports governing body.

Sports today are not just a mere game between two players, teams or opponents.  Today we watch and play sports for the thrill of it all.

Sports are about incredible moments as much as they are about benefits they give to individuals, practitioners and professionals.

What is interesting, however, is that the arrival of modern sports has not killed off all our traditional games.  Because of changing economic and developmental landscape, some had to die.  Soksom and jigdum, to name but two, stood no chance against new and popular sports.  But traditional sports like khuru and doegor have not only survived, but people continue to play with sustained interest on every major occasion.

By Younten Tshedup


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