I presume that most of you would have spent this Sunday evening on watching the Closing Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics 2008.
What an amazing display of a proud Chinese nation that was witnessed tonight ! Truly outstanding and world-class. I have serious doubt whether London 2012 can match the dazzle and determination of the Chinese.
Not just that. China won an amazing 51 Gold medals and a total of 100 medals. Though the U.S. won a total of 110 medals, it got a lot less of the golds ! The Russian Federation, Great Britain, and Germany followed China and the U.S.
And, where was India ? Doordarshan proudly displayed the medal tally with India ranked #50, with a total of just 3 medals. From a country with more than a billion people.
The comparison between China and India could not have been starker. While we could celebrate the single gold medal that India won in air rifle shooting, it would be pertinent to realise that India had almost negligible presence in the field and track events, in all the athletic events. While we could say that this is a milestone Olympics for India, it is clearly a sad reflection of the status of sports management in the country.
One cannot blame the country’s infatuation with Cricket for such a poor performance (it is clearly “poor”, and definitely not reflective of India’s potential). In India, there is a lot of politics in sports, as could have been seen even in Cricket. There is absolute lack of discipline in whatever sports that India undertakes – be it Hockey, or Football, or any other sports. Government also did not allocate the funds required in full measure. One has to just look at the efforts and preparations by the Chinese over the past 7 years, and wonder for ever what did India learn from the Chinese Government ? Forget the differences between the political systems – one cannot continue arguing that we are a huge democracry, and China hardly has any democracy to speak about. While that may be true, that difference cannot explain the performance difference. If that is indeed the case, how about the more Western, free democracies – the U.S, GBR, Germany : all did incredibly well in the Olympics despite being democracies.
The key difference is national pride and commitment from an entire nation towards Olympics success. The key difference also lies in the quality of sports management and commitment from the government.
None of these crucial aspects were on display in India over the past four years. I never saw any media discussion on Olympics sports in India over the past couple of years, and an analysis of our preparations, or even a forecast of the likely medals that we could potentially win at Beijing.
It was a pity to see the Indian Team at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in some casual costumes sourced from a Malviya Nagar shop in New Delhi. It couldn’t get worse than that.
It is time to reorient the Sports Ministry and measure the performance of the ministry very closely, to ensure that India not only reaches (atleast) the #2 or #3 position in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 (why not #1 someone could ask and the Ministry should be ready with an analysis), but also aims to get atleast 10 golds in the London Olympics 2012. And, also why not upgrade the entire sports infrastructure by seeking and committing to New Delhi Olympics 2020 ?
Time for action, I guess. Serious and Planned Action. May be with the help of the Chinese this time.
Have a great week ahead,
24th August 2008