Why Does India Not Win At The Olympics?
With India's population, it surprises many that India is not a force at the Olympics. R.J.Elliott wonders the same in a comment in Aaman's recent article:
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?
Most Commonwealth nations have performed poorly at the Winter Olympics. Apart from Canada who had won 31 golds and was at number 10 in the all time Winter Olympic medal table before the games started, Commonwealth nations have had little to show. Poor performances at the Winter Olympics is not an India specific or South Asia specific phenomena.
Great Britain have won 8 golds in all, and among them are medals from an era when not many nations competed in the Olympics. Australia hadn't won a medal before 1994. Australia loves its sport passionately and evidence of that is its improvement in the Winter Olympics. 40 athletes are competing for Australia at the Torino games, almost double the size in recent times. However, I might add that the latest gold medal winner for Australia, Dale Begg-Smith, is Canadian born.
What about the other nations? New Zealand is at number 36 with a solo silver in a tally of 38 nations which had won medals before the current Olympics started. Countries like Norway, Austria, Finland and Sweden have extreme cold conditions unlike a Great Britain or Australia which explains the vast difference in medal counts in winter sports.
The fact that India has sent out 4 participants for the Torino Games is a big enough achievement considering the bare facts. India does have the Himalayas, but how many skiing resorts exist?
The wonder cannot be put to rest with the Winter Olympics, however. With a population of 1.1 billion, India still has not managed to win a single individual gold at the Summer Olympics.The reason which is usually given? India is a one sport nation.
Is India really a one sport(cricket) nation?
Cricket is played on every street in India. Go to the cities,villages, sea beaches, deserts or mountains - everywhere you will find children playing cricket. Why then can India not produce cricketers who are better than cricketers of the rest of the world combined, if all its sporting resources are going to cricket?
To begin with, there is hardly any infrastructure, and talent is not tapped. If it is tapped, it is not groomed well enough. This has changed recently with cricketers coming from outside the major cities like Sehwag, R.P.Singh and Suresh Raina. The fact remains though, that for every Sehwag there are countless kids playing with rubber balls whose talent is not tapped and do not know what playing with a proper cricket ball is.
At the first class level in India, there is no support system for the players. A former India player told me once when I went to meet him that his biggest mistake was that he did not finish education before going on to pursue cricket. Obviously, if he had the qualifications, he would have retired much earlier than he did, trying to earn a proper living.
Hardly 5-6 players can command a place in the national team for a span of 10 years. There is money in the game yes, but is there really money then to support the careers of at least the state level cricketers? The way the money is currently distributed, the answer is no.
The plight of other sports in India
Rajyawardhan Rathore, silver medalist at Athens, 2004, in the Men's double trap event did it with an attitude few people have or are expected to have. He did not receive much support. Despite that he did not criticize the authorities and made the best of what he got, staying undeterred. When people see a Sania Mirza in India sport today, they do not realize the expenses players have to deal with when they are not 'stars'.
To gain points a player has to travel far and wide and for it the player requires money. Add to that the money required to be paid to the best coaches from the world for proper grooming. Sponsors are necessary. The tragedy is, sponsors only come in once the player has become a star or is on the verge of becoming a star. Even after some one has achieved success, a sponsor can back out as was the case with Konery Humpy, India's finest young chess talent. (though chess is not an Olympic sport, this shows the difficulties players face)
Why does money and infrastructure need to come up in a country where so many people are poor?
Sport brings in joy which is priceless. The joy the Brazilian kid gets playing football or the Indian counterpart gets hitting a six is unmatched. In that moment he forgets all hardships. Another argument brought up was regarding money invested in sports. Gaurav commented in the same article:
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.
If India had that attitude, India would not even have had the base for winning the World Cup in 1983. That victory propelled a cricket craziness in India and money coming in through privatization of broadcasts in the mid 90s, the Wills World Cup happening in 1996. Hosting a big sporting event means the growth of infrastructure, tie ups with companies and jobs to many people. Sport is an industry in itself, even if you leave aside that it also brings joy to many people in the process.
Why Does India Not Win At The Olympics?
- » Published on February 17, 2006
- » Type: Opinion
- » Filed under: