Tuesday, January 25, 2022

India needs to move past mediocrity to succeed at Olympics

We will always remember Rio, for Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. The home show will be forgotten soon, along with the mediocrity.

Written by Jaideep Ghosh |
August 25, 2016 11:58:14 am
India Olympics, India Rio olympics, Rio Olympics, India sports, India sports blogs, sports blogs, Olympic news, India medals Olympics, sports, sports news India return from Rio Olympics with two medals – a bronze and a silver. (Source: AP)

I guess we have time for one more long, wistful look at the Rio Olympics before more mundane things take over our lives and imaginations again.

The Olympics are the pinnacle of sporting ambition, achievement and imagination. You can be envious of those who participate, you can marvel at their skills and achievements and you can applaud their successes.

You can also sit back and stare with disbelief at how some can make it all just a circus, making a mockery of the event, the sport and most of all, the country they come from.

Thankfully for us, the Olympics aren’t just about our Indian athletes.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The two medals for a contingent of eventually 118 athletes is a pitiable return for what was marketed as possibly one of the most potent contingents India had ever sent to the Games, apart from being the largest.

This is where my issue lies. Where does it say we have to send a large contingent? There are no prizes for crowding the Games Village, especially when a large proportion of those who go should be allowed in anyway.

The entire mathematics of everyone wanting to be on the gravy boat is understandable, but given that the country has become a laughing stock of the international community, it is high time for the authorities to step in.

Provided, of course, they are bothered.

As you would recall, India didn’t have a Sports Minister for long in the recent past. It was only when the Olympics began to get real did the authorities sit up a take notice and then someone was hastily put in-charge of the portfolio.

But this gentleman, Sarbananda Sonowal, had bigger fish to fry, like the Assam Assembly elections, and the ministry was just a stop-gap, handed down to him, like the forward short-leg position is given to the junior-most in cricket.

So, as soon as the Assam elections were over, he quit and went to take over as Chief Minister.

The responsibility was then given to Vijay Goel, whose political career can, at best, be called mediocre.

What he did with his ministry at home we really don’t know. What he did in Rio, followed by the embarrassing letter from the Organising Committee is not a secret anymore. So, when we sit and wonder why India is not at least competitive in sporting events, there is your answer. No one really cares.

This, unfortunately, is not limited to the Government. The only ambition of some of the athletes too is to just add on to their collection of Olympic blazers.

I’d really wish someone would enlighten us on what are the achievements of people like Manavjit Sandhu, Renjith Maheswary, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Mouma Das or Jwala Gutta at the Olympic level?

There are others too, on the track and field, who simply don’t even crop up in your mind. Why should they get more than one Olympics, forget four, five, or seven!

For some, it’s convenient. After all, they are perceived to be the best in the country in what they do (wonder how many potentially better ones are nipped in the bud), and to promote these ‘best’ athletes means that some more people, including coaches, officials and other add-ons can also tag along.

That is another major issue. We don’t even know how many officials go with the team, and how many of them actually need to go.

So, when it is this gravy boat that everyone wants to be on, numbers naturally are higher. That it does nothing for the actual medal tally is a given if quantity is more relevant than quality.

After London four years ago, where India returned with an unprecedented six individual medals, there was a lot of optimism about Rio. We had crossed the barrier of hesitancy and we actually had athletes in some events who could match with the best in the world.

Sadly, all of that unravelled rather rapidly and we were left celebrating one silver and a bronze.

Make no mistake, there was fight shown by quite a few. We will hear of Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu for enough time till cricket once more takes over our collective conscience. We will also talk of Dipa Karmakar and Lalita Babar for a while.

But like we have suddenly forgotten Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza, public memory is short. That is exactly why the cynical and mediocre are the biggest participants in our Olympic quest.

There was a newspaper report on Thursday morning about an Ethiopian athlete not returning home after protesting the political situation at home. The article goes on to say that the country was celebrating “only eight medals” won in Rio.

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Politically and economically unstable countries, nations batting war, terrorism, famine and other ills have scored medals in Rio. Even those without countries have succeeded.

So let’s not kid ourselves. We will always remember Rio, for Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. The home show will be forgotten soon, along with the mediocrity.

All that will do is send more mediocrity to Tokyo in four years’ time.

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