Year 2020: India is one of the top nations at Olympics: Oh, how we would love to read this as a headline in 2020, if not before. A tough ask? Why not crank it up a notch? Maybe 2028. So how is it possible that a nation obsessed with one sport, a nation that spends 85% of money on that sport, rises above the odds and discovers the Narnia, that is, the world of sports?
Why aren’t the Indians winning more medals? Be it the Olympics, the most recent London Olympics 2012, where India managed a meagre total of 6 medals, sadly being its highest Olympics tally or the Commonwealth Games or the Glasgow 2014. Not a great record for a wannabe Superpower. Whenever the question of how to improve India’s pathetic standing in the World Sports arena is asked, everyone mumbles the five-letter magic word, ‘Money’. Indian sportsmen suffer from insufficient funds, they say. Without funds, world-class facilities and training, it is a herculean task to become a sporting nation. So, if money and government support was all that was needed, we might as well have seen a few Gujaratis and Delhiites on the medal winners’ podium. The Sports Ministry spent a heavy sum of Rs. 142.3 crores on the ‘Operation Excellence for London Olympics’ apart from the yearly Rs. 750 crores of expenditure on sports, including training camps, expense of coaches, equipments and support staff. What about Hockey, Football, Wrestling, Shooting, Boxing, Badminton? Are they getting enough funds and services? No. We want more Cricket. We won’t mind IPL taking place twice a year, now would we?
Do we really care about the athletes and sportsmen from any arena other than cricket? Unrivalled Viswanathan Anand’s chess world title would be a distant memory, Saina Nehwal’s wins would be something we haven’t heard of and however, we remember every detail of India-Bangladesh bilateral series 2014. We only care about these people when major world tournaments are approaching. During major tournaments, we can see thousands of Indians, saddened and ashamed of the fact that countries with population half a millionth of ours can pick up multiple golds, and we cannot even manage a single one. We don’t care about their struggles with poverty, their battles with the cynical, often corrupt self-serving sports administrative bodies. Get real, people. We have failed them as much as we seem to believe that the Indian athletes have failed us. Sorry, Sushil Kumar, we forgot about your troubles with poverty, acquiring the necessary dietary supplements and the fact that your father supported you in spite of being a DTC bus driver. We were too busy talking about Harbhajan Singh’s new Hummer. But that’s who we are.
Despite India’s huge population, the effective participation in sports is awfully low. The percentage of participants getting filtered in a tournament to go to the top is meagre. So, if our base is small, our peak would be microscopic. So, the bitter truth is, India is awful as a sporting nation. Although, tournaments like Indian Super League for Football are being organized, hence giving impetus to football in a different direction, only time will tell how ‘Super’ it comes out to be. Till then, we still have Virat Kohli’s love life to discuss.