India and sports- a need for change in perspective

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As the Olympics flame went out and the glittering closing ceremony came to an end, it is time to look back at the eventful two weeks and applaud the efforts of every participant. There have been breathtaking performances and nail-biting moments- be it the surprise package Joseph Schooling,

or the unbeatable Usain Bolt, the gritty Yusra Mardini or Indian girls Sakshi Malik and PV SIndhu, there are stories and images that will stay etched in our memories forever. 

At the 67th spot at Rio Olympics, India has just two medals to show (1 bronze 1 silver). Surprisingly, the redeemers for India have all been girls this time. PV Sindhu is the youngest Indian to have won an Olympic medal, and the first medal in badminton, while Sakshi Malik’s bronze is the first Olympic medal for women’s wrestling. The gutsy Dipa Karmakar missed the bronze by 0.15 points but her clean-finish Produnova has made her an inspiration for many. After PT Usha (1984 Los Angeles), it was Lalita Babar who qualified for the final of the track event and came 10th in the 3000 m steeplechase.  

Though India sent its biggest-ever contingent to Olympics Games this year, the show put up by sportspersons cannot be called exemplary or inspiring. Competing in 15 disciplines, and stumbling in shooting, boxing, hockey and tennis, despite established players and high hopes, the Indian medal tally is far from impressive. 

Sports have always been a tricky ride for our country. We become aware of our poor performance only once in 4 years, criticizing players and the system, conveniently forgetting all about it within days. However, the administration is only an extension of the Indian mindset on the whole. The indifference that we have towards sports is reflected in the system as well. We all want winners, but we are least bothered about cultivating winners. 

The administrative authorities have also not done much to build confidence among common people to let their children choose a sport as their career instead of tried and tested options like engineering and MBA. There is a severe lack of funds when it comes to developing sports facilities in our country. Athletes toil in terrible conditions, without any support, and then when they make it to a certain level on their own, suddenly all eyes turn towards them and they are expected to perform better than the best in the world. 

With the exception of cricket, interest in sports is not nurtured in a meaningful way. Our interest in sports as a nation is fleeting and is on an overdrive only when events like the Olympics are going on, because it is fashionable to do so. There is either complete disinterest or fanatical frenzy, depending on the season! 

Athletes languish in obscurity and are heaped with riches only when they meet international standards, which they manage to do despite the system. It is time for common people and for sports bodies to pay regular attention to sports and support athletes more, giving them opportunities to excel, and change the script for better.

 

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