By Kasturi Sanap:
Rio Olympics contributed 2 medals to the total medal tally of India. India’s performance in the Olympics has always been dismal. Certainly, Michael Phelps’ vitrine has just as many Olympic medals than the collective medals won by our country over the years. Since 1980, we managed to get just one gold in individual performances in the Olympics. Continuing the legacy of pitiful performance at Olympics, the largest Indian contingent to the Olympic village is returning back to its home country with a disappointing medal haul. While many have blamed the stars (read: Indian Olympians) for the poor show, the below par performance has paved way for thorough introspection in the whole system generating our stars. Let’s have a look at the factors leading to such a deplorable defeat in the Olympics:
1. Sporting culture: A popular WhatsApp message reads, “We’ll win more medals at Olympics when our P.T. teacher stops using P.T. period for teaching lessons from the books.” “Kheloge kudoge toh banoge kharab, padhoge likhoge toh banoge navaab.” (“You will become great if you study, but you will destroy your future if you play”)We have prioritised academic education over all the extra-curricular activities. Sports has always had a backseat vis-à-vis education. When we speak about India lacking sports culture, many will disagree because we take cricket analogous to sports. However, a synchronised sporting culture is the need of an hour to save the country from the contemptible defeat at sporting events like Olympics.
2. Money: Most Indians blame our economic condition for nearly all failures. They say the government will spend its money on sports and sportsmen after it’s done with feeding the empty stomachs of the poor. But then why do countries like Kenya who has a low capita income than India still manages to perform better than us? So money is definitely not the only variable contributing to a nation’s success at the Olympics. Sportsmen complain about the lack of resources being a major hindrance in their dream for medal. Lack of resources doesn’t always mean lack of money. The system is at fault here. Very little of the sanctioned amount actually goes in providing support to these sportsman. The poor planning and execution of the budget allows corruption to seep in the system. The country witnessed the substandard treatment given to sportsmen at the Olympics this year. A physiotherapist is sent to the Olympic village only after the gymnast reaches the finals, athletes are fed with peanuts on Independence Day, substandard material is provided to sportsman and many more to quote. Instead of spending money for sports, India should start investing in sports. Spending and investing are two different things. India has never invested in sports for the long term, it only expected miracles at the touch of a button.
3. Corruption and Politics in sports: More than anybody else, it is the politics and corruption in sports management that needs to be blamed. Vijay Goel did all to sabotage India’s image where millions put their best foot forward. India was called out for uncivil behavior. Just as sportspeople represent our country at the international podium so does the sports management. The system is fraught with bureaucracy, poor resource management, corruption, conflict of interest and transparency.
4. Media: The media has always tried to cash on cricket. Players participating in the Olympics were always ignored when they won accolades at international events and remained unsung heroes. Media remembers them only during the Olympics and tries to cash in on their failures. This behavior is not just non-supportive but also demoralising. In a country where Virat Kohli and Anushka get maximum footage before a match, Sakshi Malik makes news only after winning a medal. This is disheartening.
Considering all these factors, I think the stars did do a commendable job by at least competing with the international bests. Fault doesn’t lie in our stars, the whole system is at fault. India has a huge population, and human genetic potential is spread evenly across the world, so there are plenty of people in India with the potential to win Olympic medals. Only if we allow our stars to glow!