Is it a new dawn of hope?

.. or just a flash in the pan?

And yes, I am talking about India’s performance in Beijing ’08.

Well, here’s what we should be certain about. India would not be a global sporting powerhouse in our lifetime. You and I will never see India win 10 golds in one Olympics.

The reason? The reason is this. (click here).

This article was written on the 3rd of September 2004, nearly 4 years from today, after the end of another Olympic games. And it is equally true today.

To win a few medals (and India will win more meals, India will win more golds in our lifetime, I can assure you that), private endeavour and private funding is good enough. A serendipitous development and set-up which churns out winners is good enough. The Bhiwani little-Cuba ecosystem being a prime example of that. India will win more boxing medals.

But to be a genuine sporting powerhouse, the system has to change. even more so, the mindset has to change. Really, the country has to change. And that is not going to happen in one lifetime. Read the old article again.

I will agree to BVHK’s post (click here) about Suresh Kalmadi, and the misplacement of government funds. Even without a whole lot of cricket-esque patronage, ensuring a regular input of funds and a concerted effort to help the progress of top under-21 talents (as opposed to development of grass-root sports infrastructure, a more wholesome change) can do wonders to our medal prospects at the Olympics. A Lalit Modi can generate a great lot of money to other games as well, and at least a part of it will go to the players. And this will lead to a lot more medals. I do see India winning 10 medals in one Olympic games in my lifetime.

But 10 medals do not make a genuine sporting powerhouse. Hungary gets 10 medals. Canada gets 10 medals. And they are not sporting powerhouses.

Forget China. Forget the US. Forget Germany, forget Russia. They are sporting superpowers (notwithstanding the super performance of Great Britain to come within the top 4 this time). I am talking Australia, I am talking UK and Korea, Japan and France and Italy here. And yes, Italy and France under-achiever this time… but you get the story, right? These are sporting powerhouses. They get 10 golds in each Olympic games, or are expected to.

These are sporting powerhouses, and India cannot get there in my lifetime.

Seriously, I will be happy with us competing with Hungary and Canada in the overall standing in the Olympic games 2040.


6 thoughts on “Is it a new dawn of hope?

  1. Your views, some might say, is pessimistic; but I will say they are realistic. It’s also about commitment. The tragedy is we can, but we aren’t bothered. So what if we don’t get medals, sort of attitude.

  2. Hey Pradeep, nice to see your new blog.

    And yes, we certainly can. More good shows like Beijing are certainly possible.
    It’s just that there is a difference between agood show, and being a sporting powerhouse. To be a sporting powerhouse, mere support to promising sportspeople will not help. A country-wide ecosystem such that sport (and thereby sportspeople) are promoted as opposed to barely tolerated, is required to be a sporting powerhouse. In Europe as well as in the US, sport is as appreciable as other careers such as education, entertainment and the corporate world, school sports coaches are seen as equivalent to teachers in terms of respect, and thereby the ecosystem that I am talking about, comes in. Russia and China are different, whereby one who is seen to have any sporting talent, is seen as special and is really developed from a very young age.
    Bane of democracy, bane of a developing country, and bane of a knowledge-based economy, I guess. And we will continue to become better, and get more medals in Olympics, never threatening to become a sporting powerhouse.
    And I don’t see that as negative at all. I am overjoyed with our performance in Beijing, and am really hoping for more to follow.

  3. My comment is a bit long, hence please bear with me:

    1. India has clearly declined in sports in which it was a strong contender before. By that I mean sports which are a part of Olympics. Hockey is the first example that comes to mind. Tennis and athletics are now entering those dangerous waters (granted, Lee and Hesh put aside their differences and reached quarters while Anju Bobby George hit bad form at the worst possible moment, but apart from them, do we have anyone to compete strongly on the world stage?). It is a tragedy of epic proportions that instead of making sincere efforts to recover the momentum lost in these sports, we are debating over including cricket in Olympics. Isn’t that disturbing, if not insulting to the other sportsmen (think archery, wrestling and shooting) who have only Olympics to get a proper competitive exposure and thus, a sense of participation and achievement which will be solely theirs?

    2. Yes, politics and sports do not mix. But good administration and sports do mix. In fact, that is the key relationship that needs to be nurtured if India has to compete with the likes of France and Italy. The matter assumes even more urgent proportions because India is going to host 2010 Commonwealth games at Delhi. Not only do we need strong performances from the adminstrators (as hosts) and sportsmen (as being well-versed with the conditions), we also need a healthy symbiotic partnership between them to ensure that we, as a sport-loving country, do well in these games. Will it happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

    3. If one were to look at the sporting powerhouses closely, we can observe that that spell-binding performance is not totally inspirational or charged because of the stage. Rather it has come from hours and hours of gruelling training, practice, body conditioning, scientic preparation…you get the picture. The facilities contribute as much as the skill and focus itself. So, if we want to be on the same level, we need the same kind of facilities, which unfortunately, we don’t seem to have. So, we need to think differently for now. Interestingly, we seem to have no qualms about sending shiploads of brainy geeks (yeah, I know I am one too) abroad to help the technologically-challenged “customers and clients” but, absolutely have no plan in place to send promising athletes for conditioning, training, preparation and the like abroad to perform creditably for the Motherland. Yes, the private companies do that, but what is stopping the government from taking the initiative in this regard and doing something about it? After all, aren’t sportsmen ambassadors of the country?

    4. It is time we stopped comparing stupidly like how the hell did a tiny nation like Jamaica win so many golds? It did so because of the path set by legends like Merlene Ottey and recently, Asafa Powell. Didn’t Newton say “”If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”? It takes a great deal of groundwork for success to arrive. And that groundwork for India has to come now.

    I would have said more, but I am very interested to know what official measures are taken to further this apart from articial ones like the BCCI awarding the Beijing heroes. How patronizing can one get?

  4. Which is precisely what I say, Mo.
    Do look at the article provided as a link, circa 2004.

    The government can help only as far as providing better facilities and sending our best abroad for the best training.
    That will not make us sporting powerhouses.

  5. What we really need to understand is that sports is not within our culture and mindset. We have become a lazy nation.

    Not all sports require organized government support. Take the case of Kenyan long distance runners! How did they succeed? They just needed their legs and they ran and ran and ran.

    We need to bring some amount of sports into our culture. Especially those sports that do not require too much money.

    Badminton, Athletics, swimming, can all work through individual efforts. We cant complain and hold the govt accountable for everything. Somewhere, we need to wake up.

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