By the latest records, China has won 61 medals at the London Olympics, surpassing the tally of the United States of America, the biggest ever medal winner at the Olympics.
China is considerably using its human resource to its advantage, building an athletic and fit nation.
In contrast, the second most populous country in the world, gifted in manpower and favourable natural conditions, still does not entirely tap its potential. India has a wealth of talent in its soils- it just needs to be extracted from the soils, and all the mud and dirt has to be wiped clean for it to truly shine. And it is true, one shall find many gems if one starts digging deep enough.
If Saina Nehwal, Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar have won medals in their fields, it is because of their hard work and because they had access to facilities and training; the government does not have a stake in their success.
Even Subedar Vijay Kumar felt that despite winning several medals in previous events including the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games, it is only now that he is being recognised by the government and the media. In fact, his partner Pemba Tamang, though talented, is still in the shadows of glory.
It is only after players get some medals in competitions across the world that the state starts pouring in money for those, now established, sportspersons.
Why should these players have to prove their mettle to get support from the state?
Why can’t the state itself nurture sportspersons right from the beginning of their careers?
This gives hope to millions to dream, leading to a fit and active nation, one where sports is an integral part of the culture and not simply an auxiliary part of it.
Nothing much comes to mind when one considers what the state has done for encouraging the masses to play sports and stay fit. One would like to believe that after the Commonwealth Games, at least in Delhi, efforts would be made by the state to utilize the new infrastructure for promoting sports.
But how accessible is it to the common man and how well is it utilized to nurture budding sportspersons?
In China 40 percent of the population actively take part in some or the other form of sport. Being communist, obviously, it’s all state sponsored.
India has even better prospects.
Both the government and private sector can tap the current sports sensation and use their fame to promote a healthy lifestyle. Advertisements are a really quick way to connect with people. When Sania Mirza was a sensation, there was a tremendous increase in the number of girls playing tennis. Now, badminton is a rage. This frenzy should be tapped and learning of the sport should be imparted.
Every day, one hears and sees people asking the masses to eat healthy and exercise. People buy gym memberships and are irregular because of their hectic schedules. An easier way is to play a sport. A sport is not merely a pastime, a relaxation; it’s just the tip of the iceberg of the benefits that playing a sport gives people.
Learning a sport is an education in itself- it teaches you several life skills- concentration, focus, self-confidence, dedication, perseverance, independence, hard work, time management, emotional balance, decision making, analysis, judging the opponent, competitive spirit and self-awareness. It also toughens you up; you learn how to deal with wins and losses. Promoting sports also promotes cultural exchange, and you can learn about different cultures as you interact and compete against people.
Thus, if India makes even a little more effort to spot talents, there are many playing in the fertile fields of Punjab and Haryana or concealed by the dense forests in the hills of Manipur. If winning three medals this season shows that we have come a far way, it also implies we have a long road to travel.
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