At sporting events like Olympics, time and again we have put up a patriotic and beautiful rendition of cultural values in every opening ceremony. Our contingent has always boasted of higher number of officials than sportspersons but still we manage to represent our country with the right spirit in every opening ceremony.
Then what happened at this year’s Olympic opening ceremony?
The contingent, small as it was with only six officials, as per the norm of the International Olympic Council was shabbily represented by the sportspersons, in particular the women. The off-white sherwanis for the men seemed appropriate but a brighter colour could have suited the spectacular surroundings of the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. A better and brighter colour palette could have enhanced the diversity which we so proudly showcase to the world. The saving grace, though, was that the men stayed true to their roots.
What happened to the women? Tennis star Sania Mirza and her compatriot Sunitha Rao, emerged in black track pants and white jackets looking slightly flustered. Adding to the unwanted assortment was Delhi rower, Neha Aggarwal, who wore a green tinged sari. In a stadium with another two or three other nations being represented, this was a unique opportunity for the women to dress up. Indian attire offers multiple choices of garments. Why could not the Indian Olympic Council foresee the need to dress the contingent in the right clothing? Such disorganization at an event of worldwide prominence is appalling!
What is further surprising is that Sania Mirza who has always been conscious of her country’s cultural heritage showed up so disoriented on the day which was one of the biggest in her sporting career. One would remember her attending every social function held in her honour including those of international stature, like the WTA Award show in 2005, wearing Indian attire.
Though the contingent received a very warm welcome from the stadium and the Indian political delegation in the stands, what was represented was a very slapdash display of maturity on the eve of such an important occasion. A lesson could be learnt from the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is always impeccably dressed, showed up in a traditionally crafted bright sari, looking every bit an Indian woman.
The concerned officials as usual could not come up with the answers. When asked about the Indian contingent’s fatal mistake, the Deputy Chief, Baljit Singh Sethi said that Sania Mirza did not know how to wrap herself in a sari while the Indian Olympic Council President, Suresh Kalmadi claimed that Mirza and Rao came in late from a practice session and could not thus get themselves dressed suitably. He added that he was glad that she focused on her training than preparing for the Opening ceremony.
It seems it is another classic case of the Indian officials being clueless about all things that are not of direct concern to them. What came out of this event is the story of every Olympic – obliviousness towards goals that need to be focused on and a misrepresentation of the country by the sheer mismanagement by the officials who are trained to manage.