As I have said before, I dig Indians, what with their charming computer help desk demeanor, sophisticated tradition of philosophy, art and music, kick ass work ethic, and some seriously hot babes (holy almond-eyed mother of Shiva!) – in fact India was won two Miss Universe and four Miss World crowns in the last ten years.
But when it comes to the Olympics, India, with the second largest population in the world – over 1 BILLION people – has won 17 Olympic medals, EVER. The NBC Olympic site relates what it euphemistically calls India’s
- OLYMPIC TRADITION
Eleven of India’s 16 total medals, including eight golds, have come in men’s field hockey. The nation won six consecutive Olympic titles and 30 matches in a row from 1928-1960, outscoring its opponents 197-8 before losing the 1960 final 1-0 to rival Pakistan. India avenged the loss with a 1-0 victory over Pakistan for gold in 1964. Until tennis player Leander Paes earned bronze in men’s singles in 1996, India had not won an individual medal since 1952. In 2000, Karnam Malleswari took bronze in women’s weightlifting at 69kg/152 lbs.
Dhyan Chand, an Army captain, won three Olympic gold medals in field hockey and scored an astounding 38 goals in 12 matches from 1928-36. In the 1936 final against Germany, playing barefoot, Chand scored six goals in an 8-1 victory for India. He later coached the national team.
Rock that field hockey, Captain. But even Indian field hockey has fallen on tough times – note the title of this story in the Indian Times:
- Another bad day for India at Athens
It was another miserable day for India at the 28th Olympiad on Monday as the hockey team squandered two leads to draw 2-2 with Argentina in the final league match and a below form Saraswati Saha crashed out in the first round of the women’s 200 metres.
The only consolation, if it can be termed so, was that the hockey team will finish no lower than their worst ever eighth at the 1996 Atlanta Games as they now play in classification matches for fifth to eight places.
And, as officials of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) struggled to maintain order in the team, Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi visited the Olympic Village to administer a pep talk to the players – and have lunch with them.
“Play like a team,” Kalmadi told them, but this did not seem to have much of an effect – as was evidenced in the scoreline against Argentina.
….In athletics, Saraswati Saha ran well outside her personal best, timing 23.43s against her best of 23.01s. She looked very tight in the last 70 metres and ended fifth in a heat that had six runners.
The Busan Asian Games gold medallist, Saha finished 33 overall and was the first to miss out making the second round. She was clearly out of depth in a field that was far superior.
You have to admire the forthrightness and even sense of humor in the face of abject failure, although India’s Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver medal at the shooting center in the men’s double trap. It’s the country’s best result EVER for an individual athlete.
Note the despair in this discussion group:
- India’s condition as far as sports is concerned(excepting Cricket) is PATHETIC. What is wrong with us Man! Donno if its lack of proper nutrition in the food we eat, lack of encouragment from our parents/society, lack of exposure and interest in different sports, lack of physical strength to withstand training, lack of mental toughness to be winner… really donno what it is! If our boys(and girls) show half the dedication in other different sports apart from cricket i think we wud excell too. other countries look up to Olympic winners as national Icons and we indians dont have any importance for sports!!! I blame myself too and am guilty of whatever i have said above! i hope we encourage our children in sports.
….The govt of India is to blame as they never took sports seriously. Sports is not just an entertainment but it is a way to achieve excellence and pride in the community of nations.Olympics is the biggest event of any kind in this planet where all the countries converge at one place. The eyes of the whole world are at the games village. Those countries who perform well earn instant reputation and recognition among the group of nations. It is the way to show what the people of your country are capable of.
Take the example of China; 50 years back they were nowhere to be seen in the sports arena. But their development and their efforts to become a superpower is reflected not only in their strong economy and military but also in sports where they have recently started dominating. They are on their way to become a super power which they deserve, being the home of 1.3 billion people. India’s performance reflect its poverty, slow employment growth, social problems and corruption in all spheres of life as Indian athletes struggle for winning even one bronze with the population of 1 billion people.It just shows the poor state of affairs in India.
….This is not a new story.!
This has become a “ritual”,at almost every Asian Games and Olympics…
To my mind,some possible reasons,among many, are :
1) The qualifying standards set are either,very low.or,are not aadhered to,to send “favorites”…or “influential sportsmen”…
2) The training facilities are NOT of wirld-standard…
3) We Indians simply do not have ‘what it takes’,in terms of skill,physical fitness,stamina, the mental determination to win…!
4) Our Sports Officials,coaches,managers,their “hangers-on” who were takem along solely for this purpose…only see these Games as “one more opportunity to aggrandise themselves, indulging in huge purchasing sprees in duty free shops…for themselves,their friends,and benefactors,back home in India…(this particular trait gets reported every time,but is allowed to increase to scandalous proportions,as it obtains presently…) !
5) Didn’t we see Suresh Kalmadi,on TV,fast asleep while “watching an event in progress” a hang-over perhaps, from a ‘bash’ ? !
Hence, the following possible solutions are humbly suggested :
1) First,sack forthwith,Suresh Kalmadi and ALL the sports Officials,coaches,and getr rid of their “chamchas and hanger-on”…
2) Build Olympic standard training facilities and Sports Training Centres,in at least 12 strategically placed Cities all over India…
3) Revise ALL minimum qualifying standards to the last best Olympic mark…NOT the fifth-best etc., as at present…? ! And No compromise on that…at all. ! !
4) Hold all Sports Ministers,Officials(no hangers-on permitted at all),accountable and take thm to task severely…not smile it away like Kalmadi has always done,blaming the judges and referees etc.,(however indirectly),faulty equipment etc…
5) Select ONLY the best…and send them,after a year-round Olympic-training camp,not a month,or two long training camps.
6) Sportsmen should be,like in China,selected when they are 8-10 years old and sent to dedicated National Sports academies…to begin-with…and they should be specially looked after…Here,Sunil Dutt had to get shocked and improve the lot of their quarters,and quality of FOOD…even…WHAT A GLARING SHAME…
7) ALL those persons found guilty of involvement in this criminal scandal,should be PUNISHED SEVERELY..to set an example…whoever he/she may be,or wghatever be his/her antecedents…
8) AND STOP BRAGGING BEFORE HAND…like the Gangulys,virtually assuring India of returning with the Asia Cup,and finally lay huge eggs…!
ONLY if these steps are takren can we ever hope to achieve world standatd in any sport,leave alone getting a medal…at the Olympics or even the Asian Games…! ! !
AND FINALLY,MAY GOD MAKE GOOD SENSE PREVAIL ON THE SPORTS MINISTER…!
Shoot, I feel bad for the little fellas.
And it gets worse, they aren’t even very good cheaters:
- “The government has terminated the contracts of foreign coach Leonid Taranenko engaged for the weightlifters and national coach Pal Singh Sandhu with immediate effect,” sources in the Ministry told PTI.
They said the Ministry had “lost confidence” in the two coaches after the doping episode in Athens.
Pratima Kumari (63kg) tested positive for anabolic steroid testosterone in a Pre-Olympic anti-dope drive by the International Weightlifting Federation.
Chanu (53kg) tested positive for a diuretic after taking part in her event.
Both lifters were thrown out of the Games and have returned home.
Thrown out of the Games on their chemically-altered asses – tossed into the sea and told to swim home – insult added to injury.
The CBC’s Jeremy Copeland tries to parse the issues:
- A commentator on the local TV coverage of the first day of the Olympics summed up India’s shortcomings at the Games. After his colleague speculated about Michael Phelps’s chances of setting a record for winning the most gold medals at one Games the commentator said: “Isn’t it amazing that here we are talking about the possibility of one athlete taking seven gold medals and our country of one billion people may not even win a single bronze medal?”
India’s performance in past Olympics has been, to put it mildly, disappointing. At the Sydney Games four years ago India won just one bronze medal. That was in weightlifting. Tennis provided India with its only medal of the 1996 Atlanta Games, that one also a bronze. Before Athens, the only other medal India had ever won in an individual sport at the Olympics was also a bronze in wrestling at the 1952 Games in Helsinki.
….Novelist and cultural commentator Shashi Tharoor says people in the country have grown used to looking down to the bottom of the list of medal-winning countries searching for India. “We have all known the shame of waiting day after day for India to appear on the list at all, as countries a hundredth our size record gold upon gold and Indian athletes are barely mentioned among the also-rans.”
So why does a country with the world’s second-largest population produce so few world-class athletes? Some people point out that India is a developing country that can’t afford to compete with athletic programs in Europe and the U.S. The problem with this explanation is that much smaller developing countries like Ethiopia and Jamaica regularly see their runners standing on the winner’s podium.
Besides, while a third of Indians live in desperate poverty, there is a fast-growing middle class in this country that already numbers more than 200 million. That’s a huge potential pool of athletes.
….Another possible explanation is that young Indian children don’t have many role models to inspire them to pursue Olympic sports. The only sport that people seem to care about in India is cricket. The game is a national obsession and all over the country all year round you can see boys and men, young and old, playing cricket in streets, parks and open fields. It’s rare to see anyone playing any other sport.
….Another challenge facing young athletes here is a lack of training facilities such as gymnasiums, running tracks and swimming pools. The vast majority of Indians can’t even swim, let alone hope to one day compete with the likes of Michael Phelps or Ian Thorpe.
India’s need for sporting facilities received international attention at the 1992 Miss Universe competition. India’s Madhu Sapre, who was also an athlete, made it down to the final three competitors. One by one, Dick Clark asked each woman what would be the first thing she would do if she became the leader of her country. The first two women talked about helping children and bringing peace and prosperity to their countries.
When it was Sapre’s turn, she replied: “I’ll open up a big, biggest, uh, I can say, sports track and field ground in India because I think we are lacking.”
The judges didn’t like her answer and she finished as 2nd runner-up. The judges might have been able to appreciate Sapre’s reply if they knew how desperate Indians are for sporting success.
The other side of this is that it shows how incredibly difficult it is to win an Olympic medal, to be one of the three best in the world at the moment it most counts – something that is easy to forget as we abstract out the medal counts and fret over whether the US will reap its “rightful” 100 medals in Athens. Winning ANY medal is really HARD, and even a population of 1 billion people offers no guarantees – that’s a sobering perspective.
Perhaps India should lobby to make cricket and yoga Olympic sports, or maybe we could outsource some athletes to them.