The Biggest Indian contingent in the history with 118 players was sent for the Rio Olympics and it came back with two, just two medals, making India hold the worst record for the number of medals per head with a ratio of approximately 1:62.6 Crores as compared to Grenada and Jamaica which regularly get a medal for every couple of hundred thousand people.
So, let me ask a very simple yet important question. Why are Indians BAD at sports? Are we really at a genetic disadvantage when it comes to sports? Are we scientifically flawed when it comes to running faster or jumping higher? Or is it something more… fixable? In my opinion, the problems can be narrowed down to three major reasons. (These are just opinions. I have no intentions of hurting anybody’s sentiments.)
1. THE UNWILLINGNESS TO FUND.
Let’s deal with the obvious, first.
Money has always been the biggest issue when it comes to providing the resources to the sportsmen to have adequate practice, meals and exposure. According to the Tenth Five-Year Plan which covered 2003-04 to
2007-08, the budget for total expenditure on sports was $100 million per year which included the expenditure on the sports infrastructure, which in compassion to Australia’s $270 million per year is hilariously scant!
Agreed that India suffers from massive poverty issues and sports cannot become a priority over the hungry masses, however, the need for investment in the field of sports transcends beyond classes.
Just days after the conclusion of the Commonwealth games in New Delhi, the cycling velodrome which was constructed at a cost of Rs. 150 crore, at the Indira Gandhi Stadium was deemed “unusable” by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the government agency that built the stadium. Due to lack of maintenance, the wooden surface of the track had chipped at various places.
In another example, we have Shiva Keshavan who is far and away India’s greatest Winter Olympian. He competes in Luge, a kind of super-fast sledge. In two of the past five Winter Games, he was the only Indian to qualify, the only member of a team of one. Yet his ticket to Sochi was paid not by the Indian government but by crowdfunding.
2. LACK OF SUPPORT.
Indian Olympic Association admits the country has not always done enough to support its athletes, but its President N.Ramchandran says there is more to India’s unimpressive performance than just a shortage of cash or infrastructure. “Sport has always taken a back seat vis a vis education,” he says.
“The view is concentrate on education, rather than sport. The basic feeling is that sport doesn’t bring the money that is required to run a family.”
The Majority of Indian parents would prefer their child to become an engineer or a doctor rather than a Basketball player. They would spend lakhs on their wards’ engineering entrance examinations rather than spending a few bucks on their Tennis coaching but when it comes to Olympics and then they expect medals.
Times have changed. Sports, in itself has changed. It isn’t looked at merely as a timepass anymore. Sports has become a source of entertainment and entertainment brings huge businesses. Professional (that’s right, “professional”) Soccer/non-American Football players earn in millions! That supposedly is enough “to run a family”! Sports entertainment creates job opportunities in various sectors as well, Sports Journalism, Statistical Analytics, Marketing, are just a few of them.
3. INDIAN SOCIAL SCENARIO.
Oohhh! We are getting into some serious stuff now. Before you go wild on the comments section. Here out my argument. According to Prof. Ronojoy Sen, of the University of Singapore, traditionally, India has had a well documented social stratifying structure in which people didn’t consider themselves as individuals but as members of a tribe, a region, etc. which meant that people belonging from different sections did not prefer to play sport together.
“The lower castes constitute the bulk of India’s population, and these lower castes are also the ones who don’t have access to education, don’t have access to good nutrition, health,” Prof Sen says. “That has meant that a large part of India’s population hasn’t been able to take part in sport, and hasn’t had access to sporting facilities.”
Look, what Sakshi Malik, P.V. Sindhu and Dipa Karmakar did for the nation, is absolutely amazing and we are indeed proud of them but for the world’s one of the fastest rising and second most populous (soon to be First) country, it is imperative that Indians, as a whole, must pay more importance to sports and that can only happen if we start identifying and nurturing young talents from all over the nation, from all sections of the society equally and with the utmost dedication for they have the potential to become our next Sakshi Maliks and P.V. Sindhus.