I am more than glad that we won three medals at the recently concluded Olympic Games and that a clutch of athletes came agonizingly close to a medal. However, what is troubling me is the over scripting we are doing to the wins. Haven’t we done the same when our athletes came back with the same distinctions from the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games a few years ago? What happened to those athletes who brought back so many medals from these games and could not shine in the Olympics?
In the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006, we won 50 medals, 22 Golds, 17 Silvers and 11 Bronzes. These medals were won by shooters, track and field athletes, weightlifters, woman’s hockey, table tennis and badminton teams in the podiums. What happened to those athletes in the Olympics? Barring those whose sports are not included in the Olympic resume, where did the other sportspersons fade away? If I may recall well these very athletes were felicitated with equal pomp and show when they had arrived back and funds were similarly heaped upon them. Then where are they now? Well, they must have secured those funds in the bank, settled themselves into plush and tenable governmental jobs in the state and central level and leading a happy lives. Does it take one medal to secure a descent life? In India it does – it absolutely does. No sportsperson dreams of garnering medals at any of the Games for the sake of pride. The same was repeated in the Asian Games in Doha in 2007 where we returned with 53 medals in all.
In the last few days we have marveled at the Chinese domination on the Olympics and how draconian their model of attaining sporting perfection is. There has been constant criticism on their blotched opening ceremony, on them replacing the toothless young girl who actually sang the song for a prettier one, for their Human Rights violation, for the punishing regime, for athletes and a lot more.
An Asian powerhouse has shown oriental fare in a spiced up international flavour, and as fellow Asians we must applaud them. We as Indians must never point fingers at them for replacing the actual singer for a prettier dummy, for we always do that when we go bride hunting. No matter how bad the groom might look or his credentials are displeasing, no faults must be found in the bride whatsoever. Then how are we pointing fingers? Human Rights… we as a ‘peace loving’ nation have had some very embarrassing instances of true violation of human rights.
Finally, the draconian and punishing regime imposed upon athletes is creating a generation of super fit human resource. These very athletes on retirement will join their teaming work force and work for the economy with fervor and raise the levels of economics fitness. One saving grace of their regime is the value of discipline is being taught to the people by these model athletes. This is something which is missing in our country. We strain our young work force of students into tuitions of unnecessary demands, while forgetting the need of fitness amongst them. As a result, far from promoting sports and strength, we are cloning a new generation of obese educated people, most of whom leave our shores for foreign destinations looking for lucrative work. For those who debate the value of education as opposed to sporting glory, the Chinese have proven worldwide to be able students known for their superior work ethic, intelligence and academic excellence and success. Should we then deliberate any further?
It is good that newspapers and magazines along with the very consistent 24*7 news channels have been giving the medal winners news spaces but it seems that we are overdoing it enormously all over again. The felicitations which are coming along are good but then again why do they surface when these athletes, heavily impoverished for funds before the Games, win? Why can’t the handsome amounts of money which is offered to them come before the Games so as to prepare them in advanced ways?
The questions are many but solutions are never around the corner. The athletes who struggle to find money for their cause are heaped with funds when they return with medals. Where are these ‘busy-busy’ politicians when funds are actually needed by the athletes? I can count a number of such professionals who have lost out on opportunities of a lifetime because they could never get the desired monetary support. The various state governments are suddenly flushed with cash which they offer generously to the winners, but a sneak peek into their state backyards suggest low educational levels, stumpy health systems, wobbly gender equations and equality, inappropriate social standards for the downtrodden and many more such disproportions. Why cant money be munificently pumped into these causes?
The Chinese, the Americans and the Russians have already created a plan for London 2012. Jamaicans, Canadians and the Brits are not behind either. As we are busy with the celebration of our 51st rank in the medal tally at China, these countries have already begun formulating their game plans for the next Olympics. Where are we? Aha! Lost as we are in the glory of our recent miniscule achievement, we are sure to miss the bus again for 2012. A show of strength at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 does not seem to be a possibility at all.
Then again, people will label me ‘pessimist’. Why not? I believe we learn more from people in similar position than we do from our superiors. China is an Asian country, with exactly the same problem as India- a huge land mass with too many mouths to feed. Yet they can mobilise their entire population to garner a sack full of medals and host an incredible event. Agreed, that our governmental fashions are different but aren’t we the same in terms of our history- young, juvenile countries which have risen post World War II, after years of oppression from foreign rule. Yet, they come out with successes unheard of from countries like them, and we as usual are happy with a bleak show of strength.
In conclusion, I beg that we must not get carried away yet again, in our felicitations. The atheletes must be bestowed with adequate recognition, but more important is to fund the next generation of athletes waiting in the fringes for support. Let us not waste newspaper space on these athletes anymore, let us bring out stories of sportspersons who need help and support and organizations which are in dire straits – and help them with these much needed funds.
Let us not get carried away yet again, otherwise in the next few years we will (again) be celebrating just three medals, or maybe five…
Sayan S. Das