The Chinese Determination

I am sure most of you folks are watching history being made in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

The Olympics has been a preserve of the United States, Germany, Russia, Japan, and several other sporting nations for such a long while. One is not even able to recall when the Chinese really arrived in the scene, given that China started participating in the games only by 1984 – the only time they had ever participated previously was in 1932 !

And, now, at the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese have truly arrived, and how !

As of this morning, they are leading the Gold Medal Tally at 27 vis-a-vis the U.S. just at 16. It is the Gold which determines the leadership of a country in the Olympics (the U.S. has won the most total medals at 56 vs 49 for China as of today). This is a sporting revolution in the making.

The Chinese have not only worked very hard at creating a superb better than world-class infrastructure for the Olympics, they have also trained hard on all sports and games wherein they perceived themselves to be weaker than the U.S. – gymnastics, for example. It took more than 7 years of sheer hard work, grit and determination, on the part of the entire nation, but here they are, appearing to be invincible, and sure to continue their dominance for years to come.

The key difference is pride – the Chinese are very proud of their heritage and legacy, are very upset about their humiliation by the Japanese in the Second World War and generally by the Western countries on their human rights record, and wish to establish their image through their new-found determination to excel at world sports. The fact that they could overcome insurmountable obstacles on the way to the Olympics, and fend off serious troubles such as the Tibetan protests in the last few months, while all the time being challenged on their behaviour in the human rights arena, talks of a great nation trying to resurrect their past glory – no, not really the “past” glory, but a new glory in the eyes of the world through their sports excellence.

And, now look at India. We won just one gold – AS Bindra in the air-rifle shooting. But that individual gold came after many decades. It now appears that India could win some more medals – especially in the middleweight wrestling competition. The overall picture of Indian Olympics Team is not a positive or strong reflection of a billion+ people country. We also need a new image in the world. One similar to China – not just as the second fastest growing economy in the world after China, but more in terms of human development and accomplishments. That would require more grit and determination, and huge commitment, investments and sacrifice. And, where is the government in all these things ? A government which claims to be all-inclusive and largely socialistic in its agenda – like the Chinese government ! Not much impact, I am afraid.

India would need a systematic game plan and infusion of channelised investments into sports, if it is to compete successfully as the host nation for the New Delhi 2020 Olympics. It must be done in a way that parallels or even betters the Chinese record. Why not take Chinese help – they would be more than willing to help train our athletes and sportsmen. They can also help build Indian infrastructure. May be sports management should be corporatised, like what has happened with Cricket.

21st Century – it is the Chinese (and, may be Indian) Century anyway.

Let us brood over this for sometime,

Have a great week ahead,


Vijay Srinivasan
17th August 2008