The Olympics are over. Not surprisingly, the United States stands tall with 46 Gold medals. Behind it, with 27, stands its old ally – and our former ruler – Great Britain. Finishing third with 26 is our neighbor (and biggest rival) China.
Where are we? At 67th place with two medals – a Bronze in wrestling and a Silver in badminton. The best thing about India at Olympics this year? Both medalists are women.
In fact the only great thing about India at Olympics or any other games is the nation’s sportspersons. They do everything in their power to win. At Rio, another woman came decimals close to clinching a medal in gymnastics – a sports India has neither infrastructure nor knowledge of.
But the biggest problem for Indian sportspersons is something that has been before everyone’s eyes for decades yet continues to remain unsolved.
That problem is administrative in nature. They are India’s sports officials.
Officials do not include coaches. The coach toils as hard as the sportsperson. The officials are those holding authority to improve the infrastructure of the games, manage sporting activities and assist the coaches and players at such events. They play a very crucial role. Without their support a sportsperson cannot deliver, or even if the sportsperson delivers it would require an exceptional ability to do so.
You can take the example of O.P. Jaisha.
She is a national record holder in marathon and was therefore participating in the event at Rio. But her ordeal is the answer to the perennial question: Why can’t a country of more than one billion people win Gold at Olympics?
In an interview with the Times of India, Jaisha revealed that she fainted at the end of her 42.195 km run. Why? Because she was not given adequate supply of water during the run. And who is to be blamed? The Indian officials, of course!
Jaisha revealed that at the event, every country had officials at the stalls of the respective nations at every 2.5 km of the route. The players from other countries were not only given water and sponge at the stalls but also glucose and honey. These energy boosters are needed for every marathoner.
“There was no one from India and our desks were empty next to the country’s name and flag,” Jaisha revealed.
She barely managed to survive the grueling run because of the water provided at stalls of the organizers – Rio officials.
“The organizers provided water and sponge only at 8-km intervals. The water from these stations lasted hardly 500m and it was almost impossible to run after the 30-km mark under the scorching sun,” said Jaisha.
She said that she had no consciousness for at least 2-3 hrs after the end of the race.
“They injected seven bottles of glucose to help me recover. I didn’t see any doctor from our contingent while help came from fellow marathon runner Gopi T and coach Radhakrishnan Nair,” she revealed.
Moreover, at Rio, her coach Nikolai had to fight with the organizers to get her treated. It was because of this that Nikolai had to spend half a day in detention.
Indian officials should have been at the stalls because a runner of a particular country cannot take refreshments from the stall of another country as per IAAF rules else the sportsperson risks disqualification.
Jaisha’s statement means that there were stalls but officials were conspicuous by their absence.
So, in other words, India’s sports officials who accompanied the sportspersons to the games to tour Rio failed our medal hopefuls, like they have been failing since God knows when.
Jaisha had finished 18th at Beijing Worlds in 2015 finishing at 2:34.43s. At Rio, she finished the race in 2 hours, 47.19s.
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 22, 2016
Her plight has brought the attitude of sports officials under the scanner once again. This is not the first time that fingers have been raised at Indian sporting officials. Yet there has not been any improvement in sports management.
And as is usual in this country, the officials have started doing one of the following: shift the blame, deny the charge, or promise to “look into” the matter.
Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) claimed that the athletes or their coaches did not tell them what they needed while claiming that it is the “responsibility of organisers”.
“It is the responsibility of the organisers to provide water and energy drinks. For that there are water and energy stations throughout the course. We could have provided water and energy drinks to our athletes but neither they nor their coaches did not inform us that they would need water and energy drinks separately,” AFI Secretary C.K. Valson, who was also in Rio during the competitions, told PTI.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel was quick to accuse AFI.
“Every time any small incident happens, we take note. It was AFI’s job, it is the federation which should have taken care of this,” he said.
And then again he said what we are used to hearing:
IOA takes care of these things (lack of refreshments), I’ll look into matter: Sports Min Vijay Goel on OP Jaisha pic.twitter.com/7GkNJc1dEt
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 22, 2016
And that’s the end of it. No one knows what the sports ministry will look into or whether it will do something even if it finds something after looking into.
And because the ‘system’ is the same and will probably remain the same for decades to come is the reason why at next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 (and the next in 2024) India’s medal tally might remain in single digits despite its population ballooning to a dangerous level.