A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Promotion of sports has been an integral part of the corporate philosophy of SAIL right from its inception. In the late 1950s, when the major steel plants of the public sector came into existence at Rourkela, Bhilai and Durgapur, sports facilities were created at the townships built for their workers. At a time when these areas were extremely underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure, these facilities helped infuse a sense of belonging among the steel workforce in a 'home away from home'
The objective of including sports as a major social activity in the steel workers’ life was not only to provide them a holistic lifestyle, an opportunity to develop physical skills and pursue hobbies, but also to make sports a major channel for creating better citizens and inculcating team spirit. SAIL formed the Steel Plant Sports Board in the 1960s in association with TISCO, to promote the spirit of competition within the steel industry through inter-plant events and sharing of views amongst employees. Since then, of course, the area of sports has expanded manifold in SAIL and encompasses national and international-level events and persons associated with it.
The basic philosophy of SAIL for development of sports focuses on:
A committee at the corporate level of the company monitors all the sports activities of SAIL, including policy formations and their implementation, budget, coordination with the steel plants and outside agencies, etc. The committee’s work is aided by a sports cell in each plant/unit, headed by a sports officer, which conducts yearlong sports activities in different disciplines at the unit level.
Over the years, the company has set up 6 sports academies – for hockey at Rourkela, for athletics (boys) at Bhilai, athletics (girls) at Durgapur, football at Bokaro and archery at Kiriburu., Football Academy at Burnpur.
Continuous emphasis on sports activities has helped nurture players who have crowned SAIL at various national and state level tournaments. These academies scan the peripheral areas of the steel plants as well as different regions of the country and select suitable young talent for enrolment. The trainees are put through strict training by well-qualified coaches in each of the fields and groomed to higher levels of competence.
In association with the Sports Authority of India, SAIL has also started Day Scholar Training Centres in different disciplines – for hockey and athletics at Rourkela, for athletics and boxing at Bhilai, for football and athletics at Durgapur. SAIL also has a Sports Excellence Centre at Ranchi with a qualified sports physician for performance review and corrective measures.
At present, the company conducts round-the-year sports activities in its main plants (at Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur, Bokaro and Burnpur) in the following disciplines: athletics, basketball, bridge, chess, cricket, football, hockey, kabaddi, power lifting, volleyball. Besides, the plants individually promote other sports like badminton (both feather & ball), bodybuilding, boxing, carrom, gymnastics, handball, judo, karate, kho-kho, lawn tennis, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, trekking, weightlifting, wrestling and yoga.
The steel townships of SAIL sport impressive sports infrastructure. There are sports complexes with provision of facilities for the handicapped, grounds, indoor and outdoor courts, tracks, pools, gymnasia and stadia conforming to national and international standards.
Continuous emphasis on sports activities has helped SAIL develop players who have gone on to compete at state and national levels of various tournaments. Apart from this, SAIL has constituted teams from among its employees and their wards for taking part in various national-level sporting events. At present, the company has regular teams in football, hockey and cricket. The organisation provides a huge opportunity for promotion of local and other hidden talent, who get the chance to blossom to their full potential. Besides, to bring in a better sense of competition, the teams are affiliated with various associations. SAIL’s football team is affiliated to the Indian Football Association, Kolkata and hockey team to the Indian Hockey Federation.
The SAIL Trophy of cricket tournament organised to promote new talent in the country remains a prestigious event. Similarly, the SAIL Trophy for golf is now part of the regular Asian circuit.
By broadbasing sports at the grassroots level in the steel townships/company run schools, the organisation has embraced sports as a way of life for personality development. Every year SAIL employees’ wards are awarded sports scholarships on the strength of their achievements at the national and zonal levels. To further promote sports at the grassroots level, SAIL organises a mini-marathon every year on 24th of January at 13 venues across India on the occasion of the foundation day of the company.
As an organisation, SAIL also undertakes sponsorship of various major sporting events. To state some recent instances, SAIL has extended support/sponsorship for the Indian women’s weightlifting team to participate at international events, the Indian Davis Cup team, Chennai Open (lawn tennis), All India Jaipal Singh Gold Hockey Tournament at Rourkela, AITF–SAIL (India-Pakistan) Lawn Tennis Championships, All India Tennis Association, New Delhi, 7th World Korfball Championship, Jawaharlal Nehru Hockey Tournament, New Delhi etc. SAIL was the Presenting Partner for International Hockey Federation World Cup 2010. SAIL is also supporting talented sportspersons like wrestler Sushil Kumar who made India proud by winning a gold at Common Wealth Games 2010 and bronze at the Beijing Olympics 2008. Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, who won gold at CWG 2010 and shooter Deepak Kumar, a silver medalist at CWG 2010 were also provided financial support for their training and other requirements.
Apart from sponsoring major sports events like Durand Cup Football Tournament and Davis Cup Tennis Tournament for a number of years, the company has supported sportspersons of different hues in various ways. Some of the sportspersons thus supported have done the country proud in international events. Leander Paes, Nisha Millet, Saheli Dhar Barua, Shiv Sunder Das, Satya Dev are just a few of the many who received support from SAIL and have risen to greater heights in their respective sports or games.
Besides these, SAIL has also looked beyond the company to reach out to promising young sports talent at different regions and locations across the country by offering financial support for training and helping them achieve higher standards. Arjuna/Dronacharya awardees presently within SAIL include Hanuman Singh in basketball, Rajendra Prasad in boxing, S.K. Patra in bodybuilding and Minati Mahapatra in cycling .