As the curtains come down on the Rio Olympics and the Tokyo gears up to host the biggest sports jamboree in 2020, it’s time to take stock of India’s performance and what’s wrong with Indian sport! Indians have a habit of hero worship, which is why, when PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik saved India from the disgrace of not figuring in the medals tally, a grateful nation spontaneously erupted in joy. Dipa Karmakar missed the medal by a whisker though her execution of the highly risky Produnova vault won her global applause.
The grateful nation savoured the moments of glory brought by these young women but the same moments brought to the fore the ugly side of our sports culture. Indeed, it is a difficult pill to swallow as Abhinav Bindra went down to silver-medalist Niccolo Campriani in a one-shot shoot-off; Jitu Rai lost; Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost the mixed doubles bronze medal; men’s hockey team lost while Saina Nehwal was hit by an injury. Here’s a list of what’s wrong with our sports: The four-year ban slapped on Narsingh Yadav for a doping violation; Dipa Karmakar not being allowed to take her physiotherapist to Rio; the hockey team missing the march past due to lack of jerseys; Sports Minister Vijay Goel disregarding rules; Abhay Chautala landing at Rio without the CBI’s permission; Haryana minister Anil Vij forgetting to buy tickets for matches; and a radiologist being made the Indian contingent’s chief medical officer just because he is the son of a senior functionary of the Indian Olympic Association, point to what is wrong with our sports.
The Rio Olympics have come as a rude shock but a much-needed eye-opener for India. That it took close to two weeks for India to open its medal account shows how far we are from realistically evaluating the performance of Indian athletes at the Olympics. The prediction of Indian Olympic Association of 15 medals, Sports Authority of India expecting 25 medals, the government-sponsored Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) to help the Indian athletes in their training and equipment needs, have all come to a cropper. The most apt comment from the Union Minister Maneka Gandhi: “All three girls have come from families that were given no government help. They come from poor backgrounds and have worked very hard. I hope this Olympics teaches everyone that if you look after a girl properly…first you let her be born, then educate her, promote her…promote her dreams…and she will get you wherever you need to go.” Time for introspection and preparation, so that we can go from gloom to ecstasy in Tokyo.