Olympics

I love Summer Olympics; my love affair with Olympics started in 1988, when my Mom would make me watch them, and hope I would get interested in the games and acquire some “general knowledge”. After Seoul ’88, and Barcelona ’92, my interest in Olympics went through the roof. I would try to find more information about the history of the games, and could name the hosts cities of past 5-6 Olympic games without missing the beat.

I haven’t been quite able to figure out why I look forward to the games every 4 years. Perhaps, it’s because I have always been partial to sportsmen playing for the country. Yet, I haven’t been able to explain why I was up at 3 in the morning in 96, rooting for Leander Paes against Agassi, and I was uber-excited when Leander beat Sergei Brugera for the bronze medal. Even till last Olympics, I rooted for Phelps to win 8 golds. Phelps 7th gold medal in Beijing was an experience that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, the thrill of watching 2 competitors giving it all for country, and not for money was simply amazing.

In the past year, I have visited 2 cities which hosted the recent Olympic games – Athens and Beijing. Prior to each of my visit, I was unsure as I had heard murmurs of how the cities are old and the infrastructure is not that good and how they won’t be fun to visit. One thing I can positively say, Olympics have had a great impact on how these cities are now. World class public transportation system in both the cities, amazing hotels and restaurants, great road conditions etc.. What’s there not to like. Traffic through Beijing and Athens airports doesn’t even compare through the number of flights going and coming in out of Bombay’s airport. Yet, the condition of the airport in general is quite terrible, despite the vast number of improvements made over the past few years. With Beijing hosting the last Olympics, all the major Asian economies, bar one, have hosted the Olympics.

Sadly, India, in the near future, will not or should not host Olympics. Clowns like these are perhaps one reason why India will be never good at Olympic sports. India by land mass area is the 7th largest country in the world, its population is 2nd largest and its economy is the 11th largest. In light of these factors, saying that India’s performance in Olympics games has been bad, is grossly understating it. A great tool to view India’s performance in a historical context here. In 2008, India ranked below countries like Zimbabwe and Mongolia, and in 2004 we finished dead fricking last in the total medal count.

India’s performance in Asian Games has been no better. A list of India’s previous performances in Asian Games here. Not a very flattering picture, eh? The lack of medals in International competition can only be blamed at lack of sportsmen talented enough to compete at international level. This may sound like a harsh statement. I don’t mean to imply that there are no sportsmen who have the potential to compete internationally, or even win medals for India. Talent in a sportsman needs to be nurtured; the athlete needs to be provided with resources to hone and improve his skills. This lack of infrastructure and support system turns off the even the most of the gifted athletes India has. Seriously, today if you want to play Tennis, Golf, or any other Olympic sport, what motivation do you have?

The reason of this post was not to lament the lack of medal or put out a bunch of links to prove my point about how India is big, yet sucks when it comes to Olympics. Few days ago, I read this article in ToI, and this comment caught my eye-

“It is a ridiculous decision,” said opposition lawmaker Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who has headed the country’s archery federation for 31 years. “It makes no sense. People have served in parliament for 30 years, many of our ministers are above 70, so why this rule only for sports officials?”

The comment was made in context of new regulation limiting the term of various National Sport Federation (NSF) heads. The argument that VKM makes is flawed on several levels-

  1. Members of Parliament are elected representatives, and are only allowed a term of 5 years at a time. Every 5 years, they return to public and each MP’s election represents the mandate of the particular constituency from which he or she is running. Post of National Sports Federation is by no means democratic, perhaps it may be so in name. Certainly not in practice.
  2. VKM conveniently makes the issue about age. The regulation doesn’t explicitly or implicitly cares about the age of the head of NSF. The regulation merely deals with the tenure of a head to be no more than 2 consecutive terms, each lasting 4 years.
  3. Thankfully, VKM didn’t use the age old mantra – performance, not age, should the definitive criteria to measure the tenure of a head of NSF. On occasions, the MPs/MLA’s/Ministers have been accidently known to take decisions that benefit the nation or their respective constituency. I can’t remember one good thing done by these heads.

Oh, and VKM has been the head of archery for oh about 31 years, and India hasn’t won a single medal in Olympics. I don’t necessarily mean to pick on the Archery, for they did medal in World Championships recently, but somehow their performance over the 31 year period is nothing worth writing about. At some point you wonder, shouldn’t there be a fresh perspective or a new administration, if the current administration can’t provide one. Lack of infrastructure and resources leaves our athletes so under-prepared that they often can’t even get out of the first or second round, let alone compete for the medal. In general, all the NSFs that comprise of the Indian Olympic Committee are each of the head’s personal fiefdom, with tenures of each head ranging from 12 years to over 30. And by chance, there’s a need to replace the head, it’s in accordance of the wishes of the person wielding most power. Democratic elections….phoooey!

Later this year, India will host the Commonwealth Games, charter being to show the world that India is capable of hosting an Olympic game. The IOC led by oh so incompetent competent Suresh Kalmadi, will manage to ruin whatever little hope I have left. Leave the rampant corruption aside, he and his band of merry men have been running the show so poorly – stadiums are behind schedule and even tests runs are being shifted out of the host city, serving what purpose I don’t know.

One of things on my bucket list has been to attend the Olympic games in person. I had hoped that this would be in India. I am not optimistic that I’ll ever see this dream come true. I hope I’m wrong, will just have to wait and watch, and hope that the idiots are kicked out and a competent bunch of people take over the IOC.

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2 responses to this post.

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