For Indian shooting great Abhinav Bindra, it was on one of his trips to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland that he came across Project ‘Make A Mark’.
The brainchild of his long-time friend and a three-time Olympic gold medallist Niccolo Campriani of Italy, the project was an effort to help three refugees who had found a new life in Lausanne help realise the Olympic dream.
While the Italian was still searching for support to back his dream, in Abhinav Bindra not only did he find someone who was taken in by the cause, but also someone who wanted to actively contribute to the mission.
“It was all about trying to use the power of sports and influence people’s lives in a positive way,” Abhinav Bindra told Indian winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan during an Instagram Live session reasoning what drove him towards the cause.
“The refugee movement, especially in Europe, is pretty strong and Nicco (Campriani), who is the brain behind the project, has a special place in his heart for this project.
“But (for me) it was more to influence people who have gone through tremendous hardships in their lives and they are starting a new life and it is wonderful to see how sports bridge that gap and how sports have helped to gain a new identity and a new meaning to their life.”
The influence of sports
Having met Khaoula, Mahdi and Luna - the refugee shooters - at the Archery Excellence Centre in Lausanne, the former Indian shooter wasted no time in inviting them to his excellence centre back home to help expose them to top-quality shooting away from the competition field.
While their experience in India went much beyond the shooting range, Abhinav Bindra admitted that he could see them improve not just in the art of shooting but also develop their personality.
“This project has been going on for a couple of years now and when I met these athletes for the first time, they were very shy and not confident and you could see they were really struggling,” he shared.
“But every time I meet them and every time I see them I see how sports have really changed them, they are more positive and more enthusiastic.
“I think this is the most meaningful thing that I have involved myself in any activity in sports. It is a great project and I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of it.”
For someone who’s been a strong advocate of the Olympic values, Abhinav Bindra hopes the project will go beyond the Tokyo Olympics and have a positive influence on the society at large.
“The Olympic Games go beyond gold, silver and bronze, it is really about influencing society,” he said.
“It is really about changing lives and that is the true meaning of the whole Olympic movement and that is really what has inspired me to get into the Olympic movement as an athlete and I would like to give a lot of time and energy to the movement.”
The ‘Make A Mark’ journey has been well-documented in the Olympic Channel Originals series Taking Refuge: Target Tokyo 2020.
The series is now available on the Olympic Channel.