London: Nita Ambani, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and founder chairperson, Reliance Foundation, called upon the global leaders in sports to see India as a land of limitless opportunities and invited them to be a part of the journey of the world’s youngest nation’s fast-growing sports ecosystem.

Delivering a key note speech ‘Inspiring A Billion Dreams : The India Opportunity’, at the Leaders Week 2019 London, Nita presented a glimpse into how young India has taken massive strides in the world of sports and is poised to become a sporting powerhouse with over 600 million of its billion plus population under the age of 25coupled with a fast growing economy.

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Nita said, “There is no reason why a nation of 1.3 billion people cannot be amongst leading medal-winners on the international stage. It is my hope and dream to see India host some of the most iconic sporting championships in the world like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. I invite everyone to join us and be a part of the great Indian dream – the India opportunity.”

Presenting a compelling case on Indian sports, Nita observed, “New India is a land of limitless opportunities and it today presents the most exciting time for sports in India. There has never been an environment more conducive, more encouraging, more enabling for sports, than what we have in India today.”

She praised the current Indian government for promoting a healthy sports culture in the country. “We are fortunate that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a great vision to transform India into a global sporting powerhouse. In addition to promoting Yoga globally, Prime Minister Modi has recently launched two major initiatives to promote sport. The Khelo India programme and the ambitious Fit India movement.”

“India is truly emerging as the newest and youngest sporting power in the world. The picture of fast changing sporting landscape offers you a unique India combined with the power of Democracy, Diversity, Development, and Demography. We are proud of being a free, open, liberal and democratic society and the new India is a land that invites all of you with open arms,” said Nita addressing a gathering of over 300 industry leaders representing global brands.

Terming India as a nation of sports lovers, she highlighted the fact that despite India not making it to the 2019 Cricket World Cup final, over 180 million Indian viewers tuned in to TV sets to watch England Vs New Zealand final, while only 15 million watched it in UK. 

“Now imagine if India were playing in the final,” said Nita light-heartedly pointing to the fact how cricket is an obsession back home.

The consumer market for other global sports events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, Premier League have grown exponentially over the past few years in India. In 2018, 800 million Indians consumed sports on TV alone.

Popularity of Indian Premier League (IPL) has led to the emergence of many more professional leagues in India like football, hockey, badminton, volleyball, basketball, wrestling and kabaddi. 

Nita, owner of Mumbai Indians cricket team, said her first tryst with sports was through cricket. “I was 44, when most sportspersons retire, I entered the arena through Mumbai Indians. It changed my life, my perspective, and my worldview. From having no knowledge of cricket in 2009, to learning the nitty-gritties of the game, today after ten years, I can proudly say that we have built Mumbai Indians into the most valued team in the IPL with four IPL and two Champions League titles,” she said.

“As a teacher and a mother, I knew children in our school would wake up in the middle of the night to watch the Premier League. That is when I realized that the younger generation had a huge interest in football. I saw that there was a big opportunity in India for this beautiful game,” she added.