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The Winter Olympics Begins In Turin, Does South Asia Care?

February 10, 2006
Aaman Lamba

The Winter Olympics gets off to a heated start in a few hours at Turin, Italy. The Torch had to be re-routed to avoid anti-globalization protestors intent on demonstrating that snow-boarding is a local sport gone global.

Be that as it may, the Games should be as exciting as a frost of cold air in a Moscow winter morning. The events themselves are thrilling - from Alpine Skiing to Figure Skating, and my favorite - the Biathlon. The enigmatic yet popular Curling is a hit mostly in Canada. Luge's greatest player, Georg Hackl will retire after these games, and fans of this supine-sledding event will mourn his departure.

In the 2002 Salt Lake Games, Germany topped the table, with the United States and Norway trailing. This year's tally is yet to be started, and hopes run high in participating nations.

Does South Asia care? The only nations from the region participating in the Winter Olympics are India, Pakistan and Nepal. India has never won a Winter Olympic medal and sent only one athlete to the last two games, the same one - Shiva Keshavan - without any coaches or managers. This year, he has company - Hira Lal and Neha Ahuja, and cross-country skier Gupta Bahadur Gurang. Neha Ahuja is India's first female Winter Olympian. Nepal is in similar straits. Daijhi or Dachiri Sherpa will probably appear for cross-country skiing, after Nepal's debut in 2002. Pakistan makes it's debut this year at the Winter Olympics, but may not contend any medals.

Simply put, winter sports are not a big deal on the sub-continent. While there are many fine Himachali skiers, and ice hockey has had it's debut championship in 2003 in Jammu & Kashmir, the paucity of snow below the Himalayan snowline, makes it hard to inculcate an interest in snow sports. The government's disinterest in sports education beyond the obligatory committee or funding for basic sports is another de-motivator. Culturally, too, there is a preference for field sports over the more active sports.

In short, it looks like the Winter Olympics 2006 will be a 'no snow' in South Asia.

What do you think?

Aaman Lamba is the Publisher of Desicritics.org, a Blogcritics network site. He also blogs, more infrequently nowadays, at Audit Trails Of Self
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The Winter Olympics Begins In Turin, Does South Asia Care?

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Author: Aaman Lamba

 

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#1
mayank
URL
February 10, 2006
03:29 AM

The climate of South Asia is such, that it doesn't allow people to identify with winter olympics. Other than those visiting our snow clad himalayas, Most Indians like me have never seen snow. We are used to having dry winters, one of the advantage or disadvantage of being in the monsoon region. So as u put it, who cares?

But the underlying point is, do we care about any sport other than cricket?

#2
Gaurav
February 10, 2006
05:42 PM

The question should be - Should be care? Sports are a rich country's luxury. I don't see what poor countries like India have a business leaching resources from poverty programs and sending token Olympics teams. W Post had an article about how Winter Olympics is primarily a place for the rich countries. Its a shame that these games are called 'Olympics'

#3
Temple Stark
URL
February 10, 2006
10:34 PM

Allow me some ballooned and cartoonish outrage but Gaurav slipped a synapse on the way to a comment.

Sports is a rich country's luxury? Are you painted-green, orangely spotted and grossly insane? Sports is sometimes the only highlight in a downtrodden country.

Football? 11 people scrounge around their floos and pockets for change and they can afford a football.

Cricket?
Tennis?
Track and even Field? It's what keeps African nations in the medal count.
Frisbee?
Skiing?
Snowball fights?
Duels at dawn?

None of these cost anything to play

Sports are a poor country's glue.


(Yeah I know you probably pretty much meant organized, professional leagues that can compete on an intl. level, but acknowleding that takes away from my cartoons and balloons.)

#4
Gaurav
URL
February 11, 2006
05:22 AM

Let me rephrase my comments - Sports is not irrelevant. I believe spending money to compete at top athletic events that require insane amount of money is perverted for a country coming to terms with over 300 million people living below poverty. Sure Kudos to Ethiopians for winning medals for marathons but to a large extent top athletic events now require large amount of investment in facilities etc. - something which I feel is a bit of a ill-needed luxury for poor countries that dot South Asia.

#5
sal m
February 11, 2006
08:54 AM

perhaps the opposing parties in these poor countries can campaign on a "no money for the olympics" platform, which will catapult them into national office. this way they can put all that sports money into the food money account, or the "pay back the west" account.

and the winter olympics are for countries that have access to something more than money...cold weather, snow and (usually) mountains covered by snow.

#6
mitsuko
February 13, 2006
03:49 PM

I remember the announcers mentioning that some of these countries have worked out sharing training facilities in the future with countries that have historically had more success in the Winter Olympics. Even now, some of the successful athletes from some smaller countries train in the U.S. and/or Canada instead of their homelands (figure skating is a major example)... I think that's the beautiful thing about the olympics-- it's about sportsmanship, good competition, and sharing (be it experiences, techniques, or facilities).

If anything, seeing these people compete might inspire younger potential athletes from those countries to train... Maybe it will inspire expats to sponsor the training programs of their homelands-- give a little bit back to strengthen their home country's national pride.

#7
RJ Elliott
URL
February 13, 2006
09:45 PM

I've always found it a bit baffling that India, with over one billion citizens, doesn't seem to have much success in either the Winter OR the Summer Olympics...and that they don't seem to have many (any?) nationals playing at the professional level in the US in any of the four major American sports.

Surely there is a 7-foot 6-inch Indian fellow out there who would like to make millions playing in the NBA. Or a 35-pound Indian who would make a good offensive lineman in the NFL.

But where are they?

#8
RJ Elliott
URL
February 13, 2006
09:46 PM

350-pound*

#9
Aaman
URL
February 13, 2006
09:48 PM

That's an excellent point, RJ - the government does barely nothing to support sports, and the obsession with cricket means money, space and people get sucked into the great cricket maw.

That being said, South Asia has a few sports stars, though they are few and far between.

#10
RJ Elliott
URL
February 13, 2006
10:18 PM

Cricket? Hmm...I guess that's a meme left over from the colonial days of the British Empire?

But then, why isn't India more successful in soccer? I see that they were not able to get their team into the 2006 Wold Cup in Germany...even without substantial government support, one would think a nation of one billion would be good enough to make it into the field of 32...

#11
RJ Elliott
URL
February 13, 2006
10:19 PM

To be be clear, I am not trying to denigrate the people of India...I am just sincerely curious...

#12
Pratyush
URL
February 17, 2006
08:04 AM

There are numerous reasons RJ..

[EDIT] I was putting in the comment and it was turning out to be much longer than I anticipated. I also require to do some research on the subject. I will do the same and put up a post..



#13
RJ Elliott
URL
February 19, 2006
06:42 PM

Very good, thank you. Please give me the link when it is up! :)

#14
Anil
URL
February 19, 2006
07:10 PM

As Russell Peters says "Do I look like physically ready to do hard labour?"

#15
Aaman
URL
February 19, 2006
09:05 PM

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