An ‘Indian’ Outlook to the Olympics gone by

Spectacular closing ceremony. Stunning peek into London Olympics 2012. And, of course, Impressive display by the Indians.

If I were a statistician, I would say that after a period of almost zero growth for about 20 years in Olympics, India has had a 200% spurt in Olympics tally (1 medal status since 1988 and 3 medals in Olympics 2008 ) – an indication of a nation growing not only in its economic strength but also in Sports.

Only if statistics were true and would serve some direction – if ever they were.

– I can understand that countries like US, China, Russia and Great Britain can win the most number of medals, simply because of superior infrastructure and being either authoritarian rules or private enterprises.

– What I don’t understand is countries like Estonia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan winning more medals than India? Surely, their infrastructure could not be superior to us. Surely, we did not have to content with 5000% inflation and worry about where the next morsel is coming from. And surely, they do not have a 1 billion population and a growing economy like us. Then, why or how could they win more medals than India – rather, how have they been consistently winning more medals than India?

I am not discounting the players of Estonia, Ethiopia etc., in fact, I admire them that inspite of challenging odds, they strived towards perfection in their art and succeeded in it. What I am sad about, is the fact that the situation may not change for the better in 2012 or even the 2016 Olympics even after a wonderful performance by Indian players in this Olympics.

I heard people prophesizing that improved infrastructure, no politics and genuine meritocracy would lead to more Olympic medals. I also heard people saying that most sportsmen are on lookout for those Government jobs that our beloved democracy hands out rather than winning Olympics. What’s more, I also heard that it is sad that in a nation of 1 billion people, we have only a few Olympians and hence the derivation that more people should start participating in Olympics.

Well, there is talking the talk and then, there is walking the talk. I often wonder if people would want to ponder a question – ‘Would I send and encourage my son/daughter/brother into playing sports professionally?’ That one question is powerful enough to gauge whether you truly believe in something you say/talk. We are masters at talking about how the government should be run, but does anyone want to participate in Elections? Similarly I guess, in the nature of continuity that we are now so adept at, we are masters at talking about the direction that sports should take in India, without really wanting to get into the dirty secrets of it.

However, I would go even further – that question of self-inquiry has deeper ramifications:

1) We are a country with a huge middle-class. Being in middle-class implies staying within limits, not taking risks, every month’s salary being of prime importance and all such. Most other countries that I mentioned previously like Estonia, Ethiopia etc has a huge poor class. The only way out for them is to win – and win big to secure their future. It is the medal or abject poverty – thereby driving them harder. In the US and other developed countries, there is money in sport. For the huge middle-class in India, sport is not an option – no money, no security and hence no encouragement from the family.

2) Second, and more importantly, simply put, there is no pride in being in sports. Unless, somehow anyone reaches the pinnacle in sports, like V. Anand, or A. Bindra – there is literally no other big name that pops up in mind (S.Mirza, of course, for reasons other than sport). There is a certain pride associated with a job (however monotonous), pride associated with a business (small or big) (however risky) but no pride associated with sports. That kills most of the young sports enthusiasts – our future sportsmen who migrate to jobs or business.

A plea to the Government – please don’t throw money at sports. Throwing money has never solved problems and never will. In case of Sports, increase visibility, increase pride associated with it, improve economic prosperity and then – an entire ecosystem around these themes will come up automatically- playgrounds, stadiums, schools, competitions, coaching, etc. – which will win us more Olympic medals and thereby make the dream of every statistician come true – wherein he would see the result fit into his/her conclusions rather than the usual other way round.


1 comment so far

  1. dhm18 on

    the indians should focus on sports that are suited to their climate,body structure and easy avilability of infrastructure,example;swimming and not running for south indians,boxing and wrestling,judo,taekwondo,etc for punjabis,haryanvis and norteast people;cycling,volleyball, marathon,etc for cowbelt people;so on and so forth.Besides,shooting,eguestrian etc for the rich.start training them at the age of 8.Let the rest play cricket.

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