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|Andrew Krieger: Making Champions Out Of Indians|
His life-long love affair with India has culminated
in a $120 million investment
in a sports training facility in Hyderabad; out of which, he says, world class athletes will
emerge one day.
BY VEENA RAO
His fascination for India has led him to do what few others can- invest $120 million in a world-class sports training complex in Hyderabad. IMG Academies Bharata, as the project is called, will replicate the Florida based IMG Academies, which he heads.
Andrew Krieger’s love for India is evident when he speaks about his spiritual guru Nirmala Devi, and about his interest in South Asian Studies that led him to master yoga and study Vedanta, Indian philosophy and Sanskrit.
“I got interested in Vedanta when I was about 10 years old, and that started a life-long love affair with India,” he says.
His first trip to India in 1988 however, led to great disillusionment. He was baffled that a country that was known for its mastery in yoga had yet to excel in the international sports arena. Slowly, the idea of replicating the IMG sports facility took shape, and an agreement signed with the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu. IMG Bharata will be built on a sprawling 400-acre complex near the proposed international airport.
“It will have training facilities for tennis, cricket, field hockey, basketball, aquatics, soccer and a PGA standard Golf Course,” he said. “There will also be a seven star resort hotel. It will provide a combined academic and sports program. Initially 250 promising 6-7 year old children will be picked from villages and given full scholarships to pursue a residential training program.”
IMGB will also train about 7000 coaches from all over India. It will organize international sports events at the complex and attract athletes and tourists from other countries.
And how does he propose to change the mindset of Indians who do not opt for sports as a career choice. “This is a misconception,” he says. IMGB does not ask promising athletes to sacrifice an academic career in order to excel in sports. In fact, IMGB offers a combined academic and sports program, he says.
The self-confessed India lover thinks the timing is just right for his project.
“Economically, India is poised to be a great power. Great talents are emerging in every field. Indians are making a mark on an international level. It is time for world class talent to emerge in sports as well.”
Kreiger initially zeroed in on Pune, where his guru Nirmala Devi’s ashram is situated. But the enthusiasm shown by the AP government, and the presence of the Indian School of Business (ISB), a world-class business school in Hyderabad led him to rethink the venue. Krieger himself is an MBA in Finance from Wharton.
Krieger says he is positive Hyderabad will grow as a tourist destination after the complex becomes operational. He says the nearby ISB (which is modeled on leading American business schools Kellog’s and Wharton,) and IMG will make Hyderabad a hot spot destination.
It will also bring in revenue for the government of AP, he says. “The government earns out of every event we host at IMGB.”
Kreiger says IMGB also has plans to set up centers at other cities around India.
Krieger is a good tennis and golf player himself. His children were trained at IMG Florida, which has produced tennis luminaries like Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova and soccer sensation Adu.
The time is ripe for change, says Krieger. “New heroes are needed. Olympic medals will not be won overnight but within four to eight years, champions will emerge.”
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