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Sowing the seeds of sport in Bhutan

2011-06-23 09:34:00 OCA

22 Jun 2011, Thimphu, Bhutan: At the tender age of 26, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck is the heir to the throne of Bhutan, following the abdication of his father on December 14, 2006, and the accession of his brother, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck.

He is also the King's representative on the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC), and has performed the role of BOC President since 2010. In a short time he has changed forever the perception of sport in the tiny Himalayan kingdom.

“Most national sports federations didn’t really represent the nation,” Prince Jigyel told ocasia.org about the difficult situation he inherited.

“No accountability, no transparency for the funds, mismanagement, and people used BOC to travel overseas. BOC was used as a stepping stone for their own career, and sport didn’t receive the priority it deserved.”

The Oxford-educated Prince said that the funds allocated by the government were not shared evenly among the 15 sports federations, with the big three of football, taekwondo and archery receiving 70 per cent.

“When I first took over I asked each federation to present a visionary, long-term strategic plan instead of a short-term annual plan just for the money,” he added.

“I don’t want the magic of sport to end after the final blow of the whistle. There must be a follow-up and long-term management.”

Referring to other positive changes, Prince Jigyel said: “I also brought in new people and we studied a lot of good examples from other countries, so that we know the disadvantages and the advantages between ourselves and other countries.

“Now Bhutan is in the process of creating a long-term visionary plan for the next 20 years. We also have a five-year short-term plan and a 10-year mid-term plan,” he said with great pride.

Prince Jigyel also explained the priority of BOC: “The main tasks for BOC are to take sport to the grassroots level. We must take sport to as many people in the country as possible.

“We must plant seeds first, and naturally there could be many talents in the future. Hopefully we can try to develop some elite athletes in the long-term and short-term. Although we are facing many challenges, we are still optimistic.”

Prince Jigyel concluded that, with close collaboration between the government ministries and with international cooperation, “our dream of winning a medal at the Asian Games will not be far away.”

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