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The Better India celebrates the nation’s unsung sporting heroes

ELite athletes sweat in their relentless pursuit of excellence. win world championships. Watch the tricolor be raised as the national anthem is played. Medal winners are celebrated and rewarded. These are the images that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of “Indian sports”.

Athletes like Abhinav Bindra, Neeraj Chopra, PV Sindhu, our Paralympians and most recently the Thomas Cup team bring us pride, joy and confidence and shape what it means to be Indian. They have dispelled once and for all the prejudice that Indians are not good at sports. They are undeniable role models and great champions, and their achievements are well documented.

There are also other Indian sport advocates whose work shows that sport can be so much more than just winning.

As we celebrate 75 years of India’s independence, we also celebrate those who have spent years, decades or even entire careers improving life around them through sport in our #MakingSportWork series in partnership with The Better India. Among them is a former national player who coaches young girls in her village in ice hockey. Another teaches surfing and skateboarding to coastal communities. We have organizations that offer football, track and field and rugby training to tribal children. And another one that brings physical education to students with disabilities. These people and initiatives are all around us, even if their achievements may not make it into the daily newspapers.

They teach us that social enterprises bring sport closer to everyone and seek solutions to everyday situations by harnessing the radical power of sport. These contributions to the cultural commons of sport are no less remarkable than those of our medal winners.

In this series we celebrate the healing and binding power of sport and the spirit of service in building a ‘Better India’ for all of us.

Getting sports to work for over a billion Indians may seem virtually impossible. However, the magnitude of the task should not overwhelm us. Each of us can touch life through sport.

Sport can have a social impact in many ways. Combined with community empowerment and participation, their power is multiplied many times over. We are driven by the quest for universal participation in sport and physical activity, in whatever form a person chooses. The #MakingSportWork series is symbolic of the premise that through sport everyone can contribute, participate and change the world around us.

Through this participation and engagement, we will see the lasting social impact that will accelerate inclusion, equality and empowerment.

As we look to India over the next 75 years, we envision a year when every Indian has the opportunity to experience the joy of an active, healthy life and to live in a society that embraces sport, exercise and the spirit of play woven together are the fabric of our nation. This will be an India where “the spirit is without fear and the head is held high,” as Rabindranath once envisioned.

Join us on this journey as we celebrate sport changers, their initiatives and the universal language of sport.

The authors of this article, Nandan Kamath and Desh Gaurav Sekhri, are co-founders of the Sports and Society Accelerator. To learn more about how the organization is building the sports ecosystem in India, visit www.sports-society.org.

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