Nation revels…Also reveals its state of affairs in sports

Surya

Yes, India rejoices the glory of ‘Silver Sindhu’ who entered first time into Olympic final in badminton event, winning a silver and more so Telugus, as she hails from Telugu land. Then there is antoher girl Sakshi Malik with shining bronze. Yet another girl Dipa Karmakar, the first Indian female gymnast ever to compete in the Olympics. She did not win any medal, but participation and achieving the 4th position in Women’s Vault Gymnastic event in itself is remarkable.

Kudos to all three. The Nation is proud of them.

Then there were many alarming moments, all along the games. Unlike our 6 medals tally from London Olympics in 2012, this time ‘zero tally’ threatened us, until we bagged a bronze in freestyle wrestling. We, the eternal optimists, naturally expected to better the tally of 6 this time, believing in the law of progressing than diminishing. Accordingly we have sent our largest ever contingent of 117 when compared with the 83 last, to Rio.  But our hopes lie shattered like a pack of cards. At last, there are two medals, a consolation!

As usual there are complaints, lamentations and punches abundantly, targeting the establishment and the players. One famously from the noted writer Shobha De. Of course there is a tinge of bad taste in her tweet, which attracted the wrath of sports lovers as well as players.  Also there is a lot of political clownery which grabbed the attention of the nation. Maybe we relish the political games more than the games themselves. One Mr. Anil Vij, a minister from Haryana and anthor, central sports minister Mr. Vijay Goel. In a way, both won the ‘medals’ in becoming laughing stock in the eye of the international community. Mr. Anil Vij has gone to Rio with a big entourage without sports representation in it, spending Rs. 1 crore with a stated mission of “encouraging the Haryana players”. Such a statism from a minister who possibly has the RSS back ground, appalled the nation and attracted wide criticism. Mr. Vijay Goel stormed the games city with his unaccredited entourage, who behaved rudely and aggressively with organisers, embarrassing the entire country. The games organising committee threatened Mr. Goel with cancellation of his accreditation and thereby expulsion from Rio. One can’t forget the muck created by our politicians and babu log on the eve of Delhi Commonwealth games in 2010. The tragic saga continues even after the change of ruling folk at the centre.

Now, as usual,  it is time to introspect, to find the reasons for the debacle, to find the lapses and the remedies.  India, one of the most populous countries, and the fastest growing economies with the growth rate of 7.6% leaving the likes of China behind, the Rio proved to be an exercise in despair. Let us peep briefly into the history and statistics of our Olympic medals. We have managed just one gold since 1980, totalling 14. That is one medal for every 8.92 crore Indians. The country won 8 gold medals between 1928-1980, all in hockey. Since hockey lost its pre-eminence and increasingly disappointing in every Olympics including this.  The clue to revival is seen nowhere. American swimmer Michael Phelps has won as many medals as India has managed since 1900.

There are many reasons, lot more explanations and postmortems. The question often arises: Do we lack the sporting culture? Yes, many say affirmatively. But there is no attempt to inject the culture from any quarter. No play grounds,  no thrust, no funds, no proper management of sports federations, no incentives, no proper mapping of talent… in addition there is corruption, neptotism, political thriving. There are many pockets of talent all over the country. But there is no one to identify properly and to nurture. It is quite disgusting to reel out all these known factors every time. Here and there some stars  sparkle on their own in-spite of the wreched system.

High poverty levels, a reason? No, says experts. There are many countries with low levels of per-capita income, faring magnificently in Olympics. For example Kenya, Jamaica and many more African nations. Hence no use of finding excuses.  We are aspiring to become a new resurgent India. But still our mind set is as old as the earth. The apathy of the establishment is evident for everyone to see. “Our wrestlers are getting medals from the last three Olympics. But where are the facilities for their proper training? questions one wrestler with deep agony in a TV show. He cited an example of Indira Gandhi sports stadium in New Delhi. The stadium has air-conditioning facility. But the management never made it access idle to the athletes, it always remained switched-off.   It is good that the governments showering money on the medal winners. But it is strange they do not provide them with the required facilities in preparation stage. How can one understand this anomaly? One more example may suffice to point out the utter disregard of the establishment towards the sporting people: It is often seen that our mantri-log and official-dom pretty occupy the business class and send the players in economy class.

Let us once again get into figures. According to Abhinav Bindra, the Olympian gold medalist, all that is needed is an investment of Rs. 48 crore for one medal.  U.K. spends 55 lakh pounds on each medal. If we want to go anywhere near China, we have to spend more than Rs. 4,000 crore in the coming years. Even if we want to get 7 medals tally in the 2020 Olympics, we need to invest Rs. 336 crore. That amount is less than the amount of Rs. 567 crore the Prime Minister and his ministers have spent on foreign trips in 2015-16.

Our future picture still looks gloomy. If we go by Ahinav Bhindra, we are already way behind the competitive edge for 2020 Olympics. According to him, many of the Olympic nations already engaged the cream of the trainers and coaches world over. So, we have to majorly aim 2024 Olympics, he says. Then it will be an 8 year long wait. Let us pray for the wait to be reduced to four years.

How speedily, and efficiently the establishment moves? We have to wait and see.

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