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India need to bid for Olympics to inspire people: Spitz

PTI 14 Apr 2015, 14:42:23 PM IST

Shanghai: Nine-time Olympic champion swimmer Mark Spitz feels India need to bid for the Summer Games to inspire their people to take up sport and become a sporting nation.

Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, said there is lack of competition in India and also socio-economic factors have stopped the country in producing more Olympians.

"I don't think it is the economics it is the lack of competitive level. In America, there is tremendous competitive environment in the colleges and it enhances the abilities of athletes," said Spitz during an interaction with Indian media a day ahead of the Laureus World Sports Award.

"We see people from Australia and England coming to America but it is not an exclusive thing. India can also outsource if they choose to but I think in India it is a cultural thing. There are other things in the socio-economic arena which becomes more important than becoming an athlete. There is family traditions, religious traditions, etc which sacrifices the importance of athletics a little bit.

"I don't know of any magic wand but I think India you need to change because you have a zillion people and you could have 100,000 great Olympians, unless you bid for the Olympics and inspire people and change the mindset. But you can't change the hundreds of years of traditions," he added.

Interestingly, India are exploring the possibility of hosting the Olympics and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach are scheduled to meet later this month in New Delhi to discuss the nation's likely bid for the 2024 Games.

Spitz's record of seven golds was only surpassed by USA's Michael Phelps, who won eight golds at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and the American legend reckons that his compatriot will leave the stage with a bang in the next edition in Rio de Janerio.

Asked who would be the next big thing in swimming in the 2016 Olympics, Spitz said: "I still think it will be Phelps. He is probably going to make the Olympic team. Australian Grant Hackett too has been pretty successful and I assuming again, he will also probably make the Olympic team if he stays healthy. It is great for the sport.

"Phelps will be 31 next Olympics and he is right there towards the end but I think he will go out with a big bang. He will win some medals and I think those will be gold medals.

"I don't think we will see him compete in 8 events but he will swim in 100m and 200m freestyle to make the relay team. He may win the 100m butterfly," said Spitz, who was named World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971 and 1972 by Swimming World Magazine.