Anurag Singh Thakur delivers a speech during a send off ceremony for the Indian athletes . GETTY IMAGES

India’s Sports Minister Anurag Thakur was confident about the country’s chances and ability to host the 2036 Olympic Games. Last year during the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Annual Session in Mumbai, India made its bid official with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that they were ‘very excited to organise an Olympics.’

Thakur said India has the required funding and resources to compete with other contenders in the bidding war and rejected criticism that the money would be better off spent on welfare schemes.

"We are fully prepared. Very easily we can," Thakur said in an interview with Press Trust of India. 

"Last year our capital expenditure was Rs 10 lakh crore (111 billion euros), and a year before, it was Rs 7.5 lakh crore (83.3 billion euros). This year it is Rs 11,11,111 crore (123 billion euros). Sports infrastructure is hardly Rs 5,000 crore (55.5 million euro). Even if it goes up to Rs 20,000 crore (220 million euros), it can be done," he explained. 

The 49-year-old, who took over the Sports Ministry from Kiren Rijiju in 2021, said his confidence in India’s bid comes from the rapid pace of growth in the country. He went on to list the central government’s achievements in infrastructure development.

"Today’s India is ambitious and aspirational. Our road, rail infrastructure is growing by the day. We had 74 airports in 2014 and today we have 150 … Railway lines have doubled to 40,000km. There are 706 medical colleges. We are also almost fully electrified."he pointed out.

When Thakur was asked about whether the money can be better-utilised on welfare schemes, he said hosting the Games will have its own benefits for the impoverished and marginalised.

"I will give you an example. When IPL (Indian Premier League) starts, it offered employment to so many people in these one-two months, not thousands but lakhs. It adds money to our economy. A country like India will benefit by hosting the Games."

"The Modi government is already doing a lot for the poor. It has already lifted 25 crore from multi-dimensional poverty line. More facilities will be given to them to make them prosperous."

The minister also expressed high hopes from the country's athletes for the upcoming Paris Games in July-August, saying, "We should get medals in double digits."

"The way we have prepared, I believe we should get medals in double digits," he reiterated when asked whether India would be able to match or better its best ever tally of seven achieved in the Tokyo edition.

Thakur said a part of the credit for India's improving sporting performances goes to the government's flagship Khelo India initiative, which was launched in 2017 and gets a lion's share of budgetary allocation.