By Mayank Jain:
Barring few medals here and there, India’s performance in international competitions can be best termed ‘abysmal’. There is hardly any doubt on what sports mean in India and hence, apart from Cricket’s overwhelming shine across the country there is no other sport that is half as popular. Hockey is still stuck in the medieval ages of glory, football is nascent and tennis has never been known in tier 2 cities. The same story reflected very well in the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014.
India had been officially banned from participating as a nation in the Olympic Games since government interference was detected in the autonomy of National Olympics Committee in December 2012. The new chief and team had been appointed but the reinstatement occurred only during the games and hence some participants took part as independent participants under the national flag.
Coming to the medal tally, here is how it looks: Gold- 0, Silver-0, Bronze-0 and Total-0. The sad part is that this tally is the same for all the editions of Winter Olympics. We haven’t been able to score a single medal so far in the winter edition of the Olympic Games and that’s the thing we should be mulling more than fighting Modi vs. Rahul Gandhi on internet forums.
Disturbing Fact: India competed in Winter Olympics for the first time in 1964. That makes it a drought of medals lasting over 50 years!
While it is always easier said than done and a writer like me doesn’t know a percent of what the players need to do to get a medal but the grave situation points to some structural flaws in the way we treat sports in the country, that need to go before we begin our Olympic preparations. I am not going to harp on how we need to give less importance to cricket and more to other sports as a solution because right now, we need reforms in cricket as well and we have lost our crown in Chess just a few months back too. That leaves India, a country of 1.237 billion with no sport where it can boast its prowess.
However, there is nothing wrong with being disinterested in sports and maybe we aren’t meant to be sportspersons and our destiny lies in graduating with engineering and management degrees. We need to give direction to the world and head the Microsofts and Googles of tomorrow and there is no time to play in all this work but what about the ones who love to play? What about those who dream of being Mahesh Bhupati or Bhutia and they grow up to find no avenue to showcase their talent?
We are asking the wrong questions; we ask politicians to put their money in stadiums and infrastructure when the positivity and encouragement is missing. Apart from infrastructure, we need attention. Media attention will come only through a calendar filled with sporting events that media won’t be able to choose to ignore and the fame that comes with winning them will be able to inspire thousands of young kids to ditch studies and the IIT-IIM quagmire for once and go out to just play their hearts out.
We were still revelling in the glory of our Commonwealth performance and we were shown the door from Olympics for 14 months till the suspension was revoked. A question that we must answer before further criticizing Olympics performance or praising the World Cup win in Cricket: What do we do when the sports that are yet to take flight in the country are marred by greed and power politics of a few?