Now that the Olympics frenzy is over and India has finally secured six medals in total, we are as usual back to analysing what went wrong and where. This will provide a topic for discussions in the drawing rooms over lunches or dinners for some time. Some are jubilant but most of the people will grimace over the fact that although this time India has doubled the amount of medals than it had in the Beijing Olympics, the most coveted gold medal has eluded us. Half the country has already expressed their anguish on social networking sites over how a nation with a population over a billion could not bag a single gold medal. During this period every armchair critic will come up with plans the government should undertake to train the athletes, gymnasts from a very young age to how more perks and facilities should be given to the players to project sports as a more lucrative field to attract young generation and also their over ambitious parents. This will continue for maximum a week and then dust will settle on this topic as a new more interesting topic such as Munni or Sheela will crop up. This will continue for a week or so and then the dust will settle on this topic as a more ‘sensational’ one emerges out of nowhere – the likes of ‘munni’ or sheela.
Well guys, Olympic medals don’t come this way. The players don’t just fall down from the sky. They are from within the society. I would like to ask all the mourners how many of them want their son or daughter to pursue his or her sports dream. How many of the parents actively support their children to follow their heart and look at, say archery or shooting or swimming or any other such sport, as a career option. I doubt if it could be even a handful. We want a Vijay Kumar or a Sushil Kumar or a Mary Kom to win a medal for our country and we want many more like them to win even more medals but they should be born in someone else’s family. We want our children to choose safer career options generally centered on academics, such as business management, engineering, medicine and if nothing else he or she can always look after the family business and make money.
I am not surprised not to see any Olympian from the metros. What to expect from the children from these cities where more and more open land is getting encroached for constructing concrete boxes. Those, whose parents are affluent enough to stay in plush complexes with club facilities or join some club with a fat annual membership fees only can avail sports facilities. Apart from this, the kids themselves are pressed for time. After spending the whole day in the school, whatever time is left is devoted to numerous classes ranging from drawing, dancing, singing, karate, tennis and s o on. Parents encourage that much. Sports can just be a hobby. Just enough for physical fitness, but beyond that it cannot be a passion. In fact, for most it is just a pass time or rather complete waste of time.No wonder, if you look at the Indian achievers in Olympics, most are from small towns or villages, mostly from Haryana. Probably they have enough space there to play and be physically active.
Apart from competitive parents, the schools also don’t support their own students if they select some sports other than cricket or perhaps hockey. If your son or daughter, unfortunately chooses anything else you have to be financially sound to afford shelling out thousands of rupees at every step right from the basic things such as buying their equipments to buying their tickets for various tournaments to paying admission fees. Forget about helping the students financially, many of these newly mushroomed schools don’t even have proper playgrounds of their own. The players have to struggle all the way through red tapism and then our government showers them with crores of rupees once they have medals. That is the irony of sports in India.....we don’t give a hand to a toddler struggling to stand on his feet and walk but we come up with a brand new walker once he has learnt to walk. In other words, the infrastructure today is just not geared to support and harness the talents of those aspiring candidates who do nurture Olympian dreams.
Once the Olympians come home they get flooded with money, endorsements and many other offers, till it spoils their skills. I read criticism from people regarding Vijay Kumar asking for promotion in army. I, being from a civilian family, have no clue about army protocol, but I feel why so much brouhaha about giving him one promotion in a country where minister’s nephews, nieces and all those who have paid bribes get promotions all the time. At least if he gets promoted, he will happily stay with the army where he will get a chance to practice his shooting skills and not start endorsing hair oil, toothpaste or an energy drink. Look at Abhinav Bindra. After all the excess adulation of the country, our gold medallist slipped from top position to number sixteen. On the other hand Michael Phelps went on to sweep all the eight gold medals in Beijing from 6 gold and 2 bronze medals in all the categories in his chosen sport in 2004 USA Olympics. He announced retirement after winning four goldand two silver medals in his categories in the London Olympics. This consistency comes from a stable background, enough financial security and balanced admiration. I am sure, although Phelps enjoys the status of a national hero, he is not regarded as the God and pampered to death. He remains a swimmer after winning 22 medals single handedly over the period of three Olympics, without turning into a model or a politician.
It is not that we don’t have talent in our country, but the day we learn to recognise it, nurture it and then keep it grounded and focused after getting success, we will not be far away from medals. Then we can aspire for not just ten or twelve but many many more medals at Rio. Hope we succeed in reducing or better still, eliminating red tapism from sports. Sure it is a tough task but I am positive. Just the way two hundred years back at this time freedom from Britishers must have been looked upon as an unattainable dream, but with perseverance and faith our forefathers attained it. In the same spirit although removing corruption from sports looks like a mammoth task, it is not impossible. One day we will definitely be able to get freedom from it. I don’t know when that day will rise but eventually “Hum honge Kamyab Ek din.”
Happy Independence Day!