Rio Olympics & India's dismal performance


(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

Who is responsible and accountable for the dismal performance in Rio Olympic arenas?

The answer is simple.  Sports Minister accompanied by senior bureaucrats and the top sports hierarchy of various disciplines that in many cases includes political leaders. In a telling commentary, it is highlighted that no other country indulges in such political buffoonery on the sidelines of Olympics.

Vijay Goel must tender his resignation and also those other Ministers, political leaders, bureaucrats and other senior officials of various sports federations must also resign. All other pseudo sports experts or managers must resign if they have any sense of shame left in them.

Scrap the Sport Ministry’s. Ban foreign jaunts by political leaders and their cronies. Their extravaganza cannot promote sports culture.

All the sporting fraternity needs is adequate financial support and land for development of stadiums and infrastructure. It can be done by the Youth and Culture or a separate head of the Finance ministry.

Otherwise, India’s image will continue to be shamed in Olympics and other international events again and again even in future.

In retrospect, former Chief Justice Lodha’s recommendations on BCCI restructuring are equally relevant and applicable to all other sports and games. Politicians and politics must be kept out of sports arenas.

Former Justice Katju’s contra opinion – unconstitutional – be damned and set aside.  Too much of focus on democracy in sports cannot do good except for taking ‘selfies’.

With 1.30 billion population constituting well over 15% of global population, it is but natural for any proud and patriotic Indian to expect at least a fair share of medals! But, it remains a mirage Olympics after Olympics.

Lessons are learnt after every Olympics; but forgotten sooner than later. All over again politicians in power, sports federation bosses and their cronies and sports scribes embark on “foreign jaunts” at a great cost to the nation to make mockery of the nation.

Then they draw comparison by taking recourse to statistics on per capita expenditure spent on sports per head or medal won in Olympics by advanced nations to justify India’s poor performance.

They also conveniently sideline the fact of a small nation like Fuji, a tiny island nation winning the gold medal in seven aside Rugby or Kenya and Ethiopia striking rich haul in athletics.

In reality, political leaders and their cronies must restrict themselves to playing vicious politics at w3hich they are taking the nation downhill.

Wherever and whenever political leaders make an entry and play politics, professionalism flies out of the window.  Sports are no exception.

Visual media should stop raising hopes to the sky by invoking slogans like “Go for Glory” etc. At the last moment, they may be good for their TRPs but cannot motivate sportspersons to cross the winning mark.

All alike understand that sports at international level are highly competitive. No place for politicians, politics, slogans and amateurs. Die hard professionals, more aptly, sports mercenaries can only win laurels for the nation.

Legendary likes of “Bolt’s and Phelps” cannot be produced ‘out of the blue’. They are not born made. The sports environment spots, grooms and creates them. Naturally, even the sportsmen get highly motivated, committed and dedicated to soar to greater heights of performance.

Lack of ‘sports culture’ is blamed for India’s dismal performance. Lack of sports infrastructure in every nook and corner of the country is real. Sports, no more, are attractive to students; instead they prefer to indulge in vicious politics in the campuses to become wicked politicians later.

And youth today are either saddled with books to become ‘bookworms’ or indulge in politics in educational campuses (JNU, UOH, IITs, etc). Schools and college campuses exist without playfields and indoor facilities. If they do remain in some old campuses, they are barely used due to lack of focus.

Even the game of hockey although the players are making tremendous efforts to reclaim is on the downhill. And, the reason is simple – lack of modern stadiums. Synthetic surface stadiums are found only by exception rather than as a rule like in Australia. Similarly the case of infrastructure with all other sports disciplines.

Even the record of the second largest armed forces in the world in the field of shooting or archery is dismal. Shooting is after all the bread and butter of the armed forces.  If they cannot produce a single medal winner at the Olympics, their hierarchy too should feel ashamed of themselves.

One can only seek solace at the dismal performance by invoking the Olympic spirit – “The important thing is not to win, but to take part”, and view athletes who try their best but finish last as epitomizing the “Olympic spirit”.  The “True Olympic spirit may also be often found away from gold medalists with their agents and sponsorship deals — it is found in its purest sense in those that come last.”

But the Olympic Motto – Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, and Stronger” – clearly indicates where the ultimate in sports excellence rests, that is, winning and to see the national flag being hoisted and the national anthem being played. One can see and smell the “Pride” in the medal winning awardees standing on the podium.

Unless the political leadership class and the bureaucrats delink or disassociate themselves from sports arenas, there is no hope for sportspersons to excel on the international arena. If anyone excels by exception, he or she becomes iconic. And, there is surfeit of such legendary ‘icons’ as role models active in various disciplines except for cricket.

Catch them young and groom them under watchful eyes of erstwhile high performing sportsmen. Back them up with adequate sports infrastructure in every nook and corner by PPP mode. And, the available incentives will attract youth to strive towards “Faster, Higher and Stronger”.

Politics and sports cannot go together. Politics and politician, mostly ego egocentric, excel in treachery and intrigue of the most heinous order in pursuit of status, wealth and power. In contrast, sports require discipline, commitment and dedication of supreme order.

Unless politics is divorced from sports from educational campuses at grass root levels all the way up, there is no hope for sports culture to develop that is essential for gaining glory at the international level.