Did you know that this year we sent the largest ever athlete contingent to the Rio Olympics? Yes, you read it correctly. Optimists went as far as projecting that we will return home with not less than 10 medals. Then, what went wrong? Why did we come away with just two medals? Or why is it that in the past too, we have not gotten as many medals?
Because we masquerade pride only after winning medals; remaining stingy and apathetic at all other times
If you read the papers this morning, you’ll know that PV Sindhu is richer by Rs. 13 crore for her glorious win at the Olympics. Here’s a list of the cash prizes she has been rewarded so far and on the side we tell you how much funding she received for her training.
Similarly, Sakshi Malik got a total funding of Rs. 12 lakhs, which is just 2.1% of the reward money she has collected after winning a bronze medal. She was rewarded Rs. 5.6 lakhs. In isolation these figures may look alright. But let us tell you how much the UK spends per Olympic medal? According to estimates, four years ago, in 2012, £4.5m were spent by UK on each medal. This time around, estimates say they may have spent over £5.5m per medal. The same goes with so countries such as the US, China, and Russia
Let’s admit, in India sports has always taken a back seat vis a vis education
Narayana Ramachandran, President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) agrees that sports have always taken a back seat vis a vis education in India. Indian parents still prefer their children to become doctors, accountants, lawyers, but not sportsmen. Sports, as most people know for a fact does not bring the money required to run families According to Prof. Ronojoy Sen of University of Singapore, the roots of low sports interest in India lie deeper in the social fabric of our country.
In his view, Indians traditionally see themselves as members of a particular caste, region or tribe, but are less individualistic. This social stratification also discourages people from playing sports together. A large chunk of our population belongs to the low income group, which does not have access to education or good nutrition and health, which is why a large part of the population does not participate in sports at all.
Indian athletes struggle too hard against odds, often remaining in oblivion until a medal is won
This year’s Rio Olympics have given us many new sports icons to reckon with. We have PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik at the top of the list. Did you know about the struggles of these athletes before the Olympics? No, because neither the media nor the public, is interested in struggling athletes.
We could have made lives easier for them, but somewhere down the line, we failed.
A part time waiter from Uttarakhand, Manish Rawat came 13th in Racewalking Event at the Olympics, he had to practice in normal shoes for years. He took to the streets to practice and when he did that, people would laugh out loud at him.
In an interview Rawat said:
Dutee Chand was the first Indian to reach the final of a global athletics, 100 meters at World Youth Championships, 2013. But, in 2014 she was convicted as not being a female by the Indian sports fraternity. Here’s why:
Hailing from a small village in Maharashtra, this is the story of Lalita Babar. She reached the finals of Women’s 3000 steeplechase, and got rank 10 We failed her miserably. She exposed how unconcerned we are by telling the media:
The Government doesn’t provide us with shoes, we have to buy on our own. One pair costs Rs. 10K and lasts just one month.
The King of all sports in India is undoubtedly “CRICKET”
It takes away a lion’s share of the government’s funding. Plenty of private sector sponsorship pours in likes cats and dogs, and all media promotions are also centered on Cricket. Rajasthan Vs Chennai Super Kings, if only we could give 1% of this attention to other sports, for which athletes represent India on the international level.
We hope that athletes such as Dipa Karmaker don’t get lost and forgotten over time. She is India’s first female gymnast to compete at the Olympics in the death vault, and marginally lost by tantalizing a close win against her opponents, in the much feared gymnastic act.
Would the same thing have happened in Cricket, as it happened with OP Jaisha?
We are fickle and spineless, and OP Jaisha leaves us exposed: A distraught OP Jaisa later recalled:
I could have died. It was very hot there. The competition was at 9am, I ran in scorching heat. There was no water for us, neither recovery drinks nor food. Only once in 8kms did we get water (from the Rio organisers) which did not help at all. All the countries had their stalls at every 2kms but our country’s stall was empty.
Disappointed, she said in an interview:
We are supposed to be given drinks by our technical officials, it’s the rule. We cannot take water from any other team. I saw the Indian board there but there was nothing. I had a lot of problem, I fainted after the race.
Let alone all economics and mathematics behind why India doesn’t perform as desired at the Olympics, fact of the matter is, as a nation, we have never given sports its due share of respect.
Until that happens, our chance at winning more medals at the next 2020 Olympics also remain under the dark shadows.