In Rio, the size of Indian contingent is 121, a huge leap compared to 83 at London in 2012. The Olympic is already halfway through, yet there is no medal hope for over 1.2 billion people. India’s medal tally in all Olympics in past 116 years is: Gold – 9, Silver – 6 and Bronze – 11; total – 26. Michael Phelps too won 26 Olympic medals including 22 Gold, in past 16 years! The world’s biggest democracy that very often claims itself a future superpower is far behind a US swimmer in terms of all time Olympic medal tally! Something is seriously wrong. Is it poverty, is it malnutrition, is it politics, is it wrong priority, is it culture? It’s time to find out.
Most athletes in India come from poor economic background, thanks to their sheer determination. Even though malnutrition during childhood may not have an impact on someone becoming a top politician or IT expert, it can have make marginal difference on the performance of a sportsperson. The slight impact can have punch bigger holes when it comes to international arena like Olympic. Right priority of a sportsperson also matters a lot. Many of the country’s athletes aspire for job in the forces or a PSU on sports quota. It’s not their fault. They have to ensure their economic security. The current system has not been able to allay their fear of sustainability in the sports itself. They know once they are out of the ring, they have to fend for themselves. Even while playing, they are not completely taken care of.
There is a big role for sports administrators and organisers. But they make it even bigger for themselves. Cricket administrator like Srinivasan is seen as tycoon and cricketers like puppets. At junior levels, the organisers occupy bigger media space than the players! Ministers used to give long ‘inspiring’ lectures at inauguration and culmination of sports events. They want the media to ensure their names and pictures carried prominently, sportspersons can come later! Coaches cling on to players for their job security, even if the player scaled certain heights and needs better a guru. India’s first woman gymnast Dipa Karmakar at the globe’s biggest sports event can be considered for a new coach. No offence, but she has continued with the same coach with whom she learnt the ABCD of gymnastics. There are different teachers for a student at primary level, high school, college and university. Every teacher has his role to play and pass the student on to another for the latter’s benefit. These aspects deserve consideration once the Rio contingent is back home after August 21.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 13, 2016)