The Sports Shame


India is a country of some 1.25 billion people.

And yet, we barely managed to get two medals in the Rio Olympics (so far). And one is a silver (PV Sindhu in Women’s Badminton Finals) and one is a bronze (Sakshi Malik in Women’s Freestyle Wrestling 58 KG). Is it not a shameful lack of performance?

Where is even one single gold medal for the world’s second most populous country and the fastest growing large economy?

And, where are the many silvers and bronzes that India deserves?

But whose shame is it? Think through carefully. It is not the sportspeople.

I have a feeling I have written about this topic in the past (without bothering to search my own blog!), but I am dismayed that Politics destroys everything that India rightfully deserves. The Indian politicians and sports officials take care of themselves very well (they fly first or business class to Rio), while the athletes who bring the medals flew economy class for over 30 hours to Rio. The Indian politicians and even the Sports Minister go and disturb the games (please read up on what the Sports Minister of India did), while Indian Government simply does not have the focus on providing facilities to its hard working sports people. India spends very little money on sports – we just have to look at China which is at the very top of the medal tally in the Rio Olympics with huge government investment and solid commitment. No wonder the poor sportspeople from India could not make it in most international sports events. The money seems to be swallowed on the way to them. In any case the money is simply and grossly inadequate.

Plus, the politics in every single sports association in the country de-energizes the sports community.

This is a terrible state of affairs in the country.

It is high time that government re-examines its funding and role in sports. India has very capable athletes and sportsmen/women all over the country. There has to be a systematic program of discovering the hidden talent via a public-private initiative. May be the government just invests 50% of the money required and the top 10 corporations in the country (whether in public or private sectors) fund the balance. Probably, India would need an accelerated investment of the order of USD 5B between now and the next Olympics in 2020. This is not a huge amount, considering what China has invested in sports over the past 3 decades. China has produced world class athletes in almost every sport. And, that is not an accident.

The U.S. is a different case – comparison should not be made to the U.S. which does not even have a sports ministry. Americans are self-driven and receive huge endorsements from corporate sponsors, and this has been going on for many decades. Our focus in India should not be to match someone else’s record, but achieve a simple thing – 5 Golds, 5 Silvers and 5 Bronzes in the next Olympics.

Sports has to be run like a corporate initiative with tight management and world-class training. We need to import trainers and coaches from the best sporting nations of the world and invest heavily. It is not impossible to find corporate sponsors who would be willing to match Rupee for Rupee from the Indian Government. What is needed? A singular corporate vision for sports development with quantitative objectives. Only a joint venture amongst the government (should not be overbearing), top 10 corporates, and select list of Indian sports personalities can do the job – and that venture needs to have a global advisory panel comprised of excellent coaches for select sports in which India wishes to excel.

Without such thinking and execution, I do not believe India will become a sporting nation. Rooftop shouting is not going to change the medal tally. Boasting and cheering are not enough. Investment is required, commitment is required, support is required. All that is missing currently, irrespective of what someone from the government or from somewhere else says.

India to rethink its sporting strategy for international competitions and the Olympics. Let us discover sporting jewels from 1.25B people – there must be many if only we care to look and nurture talent.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st August 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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