India’s Bittersweet Relationship with the Summer Olympics

The Indian performance at the Rio Summer Olympics 2016 has been termed as dismal and extremely disappointing. For all the hype and hoopla that was created by the media and broadcasters before the games began, we were expecting nothing short of double digits in our medal tally. Many would readily point out- The medal tally of two is quite disproportionate to the population that the nation is home to. Especially considering the fact that India’s largest ever contingent of 117 athletes took part in the recently concluded Olympics.

We are all vociferous in our praise and criticism of our athletes and delegates that represent our beloved country on any big stage, with the social media now growing bigger and powerful by the day, everyday. Without a doubt, it’s easier to voice our opinions and concerns about the state of sports in India while sitting behind a computer or a smartphone.

How and Why are we not amongst the top sporting countries in the world? Who can be held accountable for such a poor showing? Or are we, as a nation, inherently extremely bad at sports? ~like the flat footed, clumsy kid in sports-hour back in school.

One of the major contributors to our failings in almost every Olympics is the lack of a sporting culture in our country. When faced with the choice of watching a movie or playing a sport on a Sunday evening, many would simply not choose the latter. Sports is not as high up on the priority list as it should be for India to win a lot of medals. Maybe if there were sports facilities readily available then we would develop a healthy sports culture. The government is not doing any favors by failing to accept the need for more sporting facilities in the country. If there were enough sporting facilities, we would also need holistic coaching and training for the young and the old to not only enjoy the sport but also to play it right. There is a general lack of knowledgeable coaches who can take their pupil to an ‘elite athlete‘ level; as the coaches themselves do not have the complete exposure and expertise in the latest training methods and equipment.

It isn’t like any of these do not exist at all, because they do, but they are too little and far in-between that only the most determined sportsmen rise up despite the system. When a sporting culture where the passion, facilities and coaching is of world-class standards exists, only then can we really start to believe all the pre-Olympic hype and expect a competitive show by our athletes.

There were few positives from the Rio Olympics even though we could muster only two medals to our name. A contingent of 117 athletes in Rio 2016 took part, which broke the previous biggest contingent record set in London 2012 of 83 athletes which had only broken the record set by -A Newly Free- India in 1948 with 79 athletes. The fact that more athletes are qualifying to compete at the Olympics in last 8 years is testament to the progress we have been making. The wheels have already been set in motion for the next Olympics. The training for Tokyo 2020 began the day Rio 2016 ended. All our elite athletes have a great support system in their own ways. Olympic Gold Quest is an NGO started to help support and fund the potentially great athletes with a vision of winning medals at the Olympics, and they aren’t the only ones supporting our athletes, as a few corporate houses have done their bit to invest and propel these athletes. The Government has taken more and more interest in helping sports grow in the country. With every Olympics, the support and funding has been growing and Rio 2016 failings will only act as a catalyst to speed up the process.

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Pullela Gopichand with Saina Nehwal

The facilities and coaching have constantly been improving in the country. To wrap our heads around the extreme need for top-class coaches, one doesn’t have to look beyond our 2 medal winners’ coaches, Kuldeep Malik and Pullela Gopichand. Gopichand, the more popular of the 2, is a legend by his own right for having won the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships. He has contributed immensely to the sport of Badminton in India and continues to do so.

India, as a developing nation, will always be improving in all aspects of sports. This process can be sped up manifold with mass participation and pure passion for the game you play.

Sports is for everyone, even for that flat-footed, clumsy kid, who with the right determination, hardwork and training can also be an Olympic hero.

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6 thoughts on “India’s Bittersweet Relationship with the Summer Olympics

  1. Easy to read Sanjay. Yes, the lack of a sporting culture is a major factor that puts us behind and the lack of facilities directly impacts the sporting culture in a country. Well written 🙂 Best wishes, Sameer

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  2. I agree with you a hundred percent but I believe that for the process of increasing the medal tally we must first start increasing the level of sports exposure and training at a very young age of a student where we must agree that we can nurture the talent in the best way . I think more focus should be laid on generating new and extracting more raw talent from athletes .
    And I also think the basic problem is the mentality of a parent where he feels a career in sports for his kid is not worth an option which must be changed slowly .

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