To promote sports and also to help retain potential athletes, the Bhutan Olympic Committee has decided to increase allowances and benefits for national athletes in six sports. The six prioritised games are athletics, archery, boxing, judo, football, and taekwondo. The revised entitlement guidelines for athletes were approved during the general assembly of the BOC held last week.
26-year-old Dorji Khando, a taekwondo player has been a national athlete for the last six years. He has won seven medals in different international and national competitions so far. He is a full-time taekwondo athlete and lives at the Bhutan Taekwondo Federation hostel.
Dorji gets a monthly allowance of Nu 15,000. Despite not having to spend on house rent, he says the amount is not enough to maintain a nutritious and healthy diet which ultimately affects the performance of an athlete.
“One area where it would benefit us the most is the quality of nutrition and diet we can afford. That is also the area where I think, other countries have the most advantage over us. So, the increased allowance will help us improve our diet and in turn, improve our performance.”
According to the Bhutan Olympic Committee, national athletes did not have a set pay before 2015. In 2015, the committee established athlete allowances for the first time at Nu 15,000 a month for full-time athletes and Nu 7,500 for part-time athletes. However, with the recent approval of the revised athlete allowances and benefits, full-time athletes in the prioritised sports are set to earn Nu 25,000 a month, while part-time athletes will receive Nu 10,000.
This news has made the idea of making a living through sports seem more realistic for young individuals like Tshering Yangchen, a 20-year-old undergraduate student.
“In the current situation, I would not consider taking Taekwondo as a career because right now, the allowance I get is just Nu 7,500. However, if our allowance gets increased, I might consider taking Taekwondo as a career because then I will be able to sustain myself and motivate me to continue this hobby of mine.”
The BOC says it also loses several potential young athletes who quit sports for other opportunities. It hopes the increase in the allowances will play some part in retaining them.
The revised allowance and benefits for athletes in the prioritized sports will come into effect in November.