INDIA & SPORTSJanuary 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm
India has never been on a ride in the sports arena, whichever sport may it be, though we can take an exception of hockey which remained undefeated in Olympics from 1928 to 1956 winning 6 consecutive Gold's and becoming the most successful hockey team in Olympic history by winning as many as 8 Gold medals. Not any more! Cricket is one sport in which in recent times we have done well by claiming No.1 and No.2 rankings in Tests and ODIs respectively. But then this sport is not too popular when you look at it from world's perspective. Only a handful of nations play the game and even less are apt at it. There are numerous other individual and team sports which are much more pronounced at the world stage and are included in Olympics, but don't find many competitive sportsperson's and fan following from India. The result is 'no result'. Dismal performances by Indians generally ends their Olympics campaigns with a solitary medal, or as was the case in Beijing Olympics, winning a Gold and 2 Bronze. "So strange for a country reaching close to 1.2 billion to manage just a handful of winners when our/their neighbours draw a stark contrast by climbing the no.1 spot." Any soul anywhere on the earth who would have thought about Indian sports or their performances would most likely have stumbled upon this thought. But the question is whether the factor pointed out in this though right to elicit a legible response? Does a billion+ people is a reason enough to win enough medals? There seem to be more in it.
Over several years and several Olympics, we observed that it wasn't only the populated one's who ended Top 10 or 12. In fact, almost all the nations are the developed nations which have good infrastructure, economy, per capita income, HDI and thus more likely better sports infrastructure than others ranked lower in Olympics. Find below a table listing top 6 position holders in Olympics.
|1988||Soviet Union||East Germany||USA||South Korea||West Germany||Hungary|
|1992||Unified Team(ex USSR)||USA||Germany||China||Cuba||Spain|
The table proves that the nations who regularly made into the top 6 are the developed nations. Even if we consider say Top 12, we realize that countries like Great Britain, Romania, Hungary, Italy, France, Japan and South Korea were there. It's not the population size that mattered; it was the infrastructure, good economy, low corruption, sports organization and management, governance, sportsperson's post retirement career management and perhaps a few other genuine factors. This is the recipe to a good in sports country. It's not the population, reiterated. Well, facts say this. More proof based on Beijing performances.
India has 17% of the world population, but they won .31% of medals. China with 19.8% population won 10.4% medals. USA with 4.6% population won 11.5% medals and Jamaica with just .041% of the world population won 1.15% of medals.
China has made it large. It meets most of the parameters pointed above and many parts of China can be recognized to be developed and tending close to be developed. But in spite of having all this there is one major thing the helped them quickly rise from no where and deliver. That is their spirit to show it to the world. That is what brought everything together for them. Their sports administration showed determination, their public followed the sporting glory and the sports field showed competition.
We know that India fails to fulfill most of the accounts necessary to be a good sporting nation. Let's get into the specifics of sports in India; what hampers us, why development of sports in India is important for India and the specific ideas that can lead to evolutionary changes in Indian sports.
What hampers us?
India, since independence, has been trying to fulfill the basic needs of the individuals in the country. Till date we fail to feed our population properly. Life is not easy. Hard work every day to earn bread and butter is the ritual of life here. There are no easy pickings. So what happens when sports is not a good deal to earn a living? That's what has been happening here. There is lack of motivation to join sports professionally as a career. And some times those internally motivated to take up some sport as a career and make a mark fails because of the government's apathy. No professional sports management, poor sports infra, poor maintenance of the existing infra and use of sports avenues more for political assemblies than for practice and events. Then after going through so much apathy of the administration, a good student loses focus and interest and survival needs of an individual takes over. Well, most of the reasons of such pity affairs of sports in this country can be thought of and a lot more can be written about it. But before we get lost simply elaborating detriments, it's important to realize why it is so important for India and Indians to introspect here the role of sports and the need for its development.
Role of Sports
India is a huge country, 7th largest in the world, 2nd most populated, multi-ethnic and a home to all kinds of religions, emotional, instinctive and reactive. We have always proclaimed our Unity in diversity and thus it becomes all the more important to have a node where everyone comes together with the same intent. Sports play a crucial role how a state's or a nation's populace interacts with others in the same physical boundaries. It directly affects every individual's perception of its nation and plays a role in social, ethnic and political relations within the state. Nelson Mandela once said, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination." We know how Cricket unites us when people come together to push our team forward and always expect them to win it for us, win it for India. The emotions that flow are electrifying. Wondered why we switch on the TV always hoping to see India win? Yes, sport brings in the energy, that passion and feeling of being an Indian and with it comes to us the sense of responsibility. That's how important sports are for India, for a unified India. Moreover, sports are critical for better development of any individual. It keeps a nation involved, more active, high on energy, more productive and hence creation of more wealth. It can also help reduce crime but increasing participation in sports or by increasing the involvement. To add to all this, it improves the health of the nation - both mentally and physically. It should be reason enough to promote sports as much as we can. This is your role, your responsibility and needs your involvement to adopt it.