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