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Thinking about Abhinav Bindra, not just India’s gold medal

August 14, 2008

I get goose flesh when I hear our national anthem playing in a movie hall so you can imagine my plight when the national anthem played after Abhinav Bindra won India’s first ever individual gold medal at the Olympics.

But after that initial and momentary euphoria about India, I have been thinking of Abhinav Bindra. Just Abhinav Bindra, not India. He did it with the emotional and financial support of his family, not the government.

I heard him on television and he said he never had a problem focusing and that is evident by these lines on Abhinav’s own blog (got the link from Poonam’s comment on Arvind’s post:

For more than a decade now my life has been all about my sport. In fact, I do not have a life beyond the confines of the 10m range. I have had a range built in my own home to cut down any possibility of distraction and to be able to practise my sport whenever the fancy strikes me.

I have been thinking about how hard Abhinav worked, about his sacrifice, about his drive. But the truth is that many of us know of him today because he won. If he hadn’t, he would have slipped into oblivion…but it wouldn’t have take away from who he is. Quoting again from his own blog:

I would like to reiterate that everyone who represents India at the Olympic Games has put in years of toil and sweat. I ask the Indian people to support our athletes more. It is fine to celebrate our achievements but it is just as important to keep up the backing when we are not on top of our game.

It’s not just the government we need to blame, but also ourselves. We love to hate those who lost. Remember last year when M.S. Dhoni’s house was attacked when we lost to Bangladesh in the opening round of the World Cup?

But coming back to India, let’s look at it from the angle of my Chinese friend. After we won, Gugin commented:

China’s first gold was also in shooting back in 1984 when Abhinav Bindra was 2 years old. A long way but not that long. A journey of thousands of miles begins with the first step! CONGRATULATIONS for this first golden step!!

I am grateful for his generosity because what he failed to mention was that Xu Haifeng, the first Chinese to win a gold medal (in the men’s free pistol event at the LA Olympics) wasn’t the only gold medalist at the event. China won 15 gold medals! The count went thus: Total: 32. 8 Silver, 9 Bronze and 15 Gold. And 1984 was the first time that China was taking part in the Olympics.

I know one shouldn’t compare because the Chinese have a different political system, a system that can make things happen. However what I like about China is their attitude to Sports..they think winning Olympic medals is critical, a matter of great prestige…and they give it the funding and energy it requires.

A lot of people more qualified than me have written as to why we as a nation with a tradition of sports cannot compete at an international level. These are some of the theories:

  • Poverty
  • Illiteracy
  • Corruption
  • Lack of a sports culture (which I think is due to lesser leisure time)
  • Lack of sports infrastructure (Indians excel more at games like chess or Scrabble as infrastructure is not required)

I think the main reason is corruption. Someone said in the blogosphere once that even if a quarter of the aid that is meant to feed the hungry in India reached where it intended no one would starve, if only one quarter of the aid to fund education in India reached the intended every child would be educated…and similarly I feel that if at least half the aid meant to fund sports in India reached the intended, we would get the medals.

There is corruption in selecting players too. When players are selected by paying bribes, as it happened in hockey, what can we expect? This must be happening in all sports, except cricket, where India has a burning desire to win.

That’s what we need. The will to want to win. The will is clearly missing where other sports are concerned.

Abhinav has written on his blog that he wishes that “more private initiatives come up with corporate support apart from the backing of the government” and I agree with him. The interest from industrialists has begun, and an example is Lakshmi Mittal (steel billionaire) who has provided millions of dollars to promising athletes. I just hope he keeps a watch on where the money is going…

(Photo is from the bbc site)

Related Reading: More posts on Sports

49 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2008 8:47 am

    Hey, I wrote about the very same paper (that Ramesh quotes in the Guardian article) yesterday,
    why-india-is-non-existent-at-the-olympics-and-possible-solutions/

  2. August 14, 2008 8:49 am

    I have read Many ‘Abhinav Bindra’ Posts in the last 2 days on Blogosphere…..but none like this one, very aptly written.
    Covers all the points that are pertinent to the prevailing situation of Olympic sports in our country.

    I am also for more Pvt initiatives. The Ambanis , Godrejs or the Tatas can surely do great stuff in this context & YES they should keep a watch on where the money is going. There lies the key.

    Thanks Rahul. – Nita.

  3. August 14, 2008 8:49 am

    Although, I personally dislike this idea of somehow winning more medals, really the change needs to happen at the school level.

    Yes ofcourse, people have to start doing things they need to excel at an early age. Unfortunately schools, particularly government schools are in bad shape. We need the private sector, that is what I believe and ofcourse rooting out of corruption in the government. In government schools there is no accountability. – Nita.

  4. August 14, 2008 8:50 am

    One of my friends asked me to read an article online which talked about the shoddy performance that the Indians had put up during the opening ceremony at Olympics- shabby clothes, no color co-ordination etc. This shows the seriousness that’s involved here. Abhinav’s achievement is only his and his family’s. Yet he’s given the country a reason to celebrate- a country that has done little for him.

    There was a half-heartedness about it all…why Suresh Kalmadi, the sports minister even said don’t expect medals!! – Nita.

  5. August 14, 2008 9:20 am

    Like the chinese guy said “A Journey of 1000 miles begins with one step” and Abhinav took the golden step, yet I am very much humbled to see his feelings through his post. We wouldnt have noticed him if he lost. His blog post has 819 comments till now, because he won. I dont know if even 1 person would have commented if he had not made a medal. We have an attitude towards sports that is not very sportive!

    I was also very touched by his comment. As you said, none of us would have commented if he had no won…sad to think of it. He must know it too and I wonder what he feels about that. – Nita.

  6. vivek mittal permalink
    August 14, 2008 9:54 am

    It’s a matter of pride and the history has been created, but we should not forget that these are the results of Individual brilliance and have nothing to do with the sports infrastructure in the country which is pathetic.

    True Vivek. Thanks for your response. – Nita

  7. Vikram permalink
    August 14, 2008 10:16 am

    Rahul, we cant leave everything in our country to the Ambani’s, Birla’s and Tata’s, right ? Even with all the malnutrition, disease etc India should still have a big enough pool of nurturable talent. Let me tell you how its done in the US,

    In high schools (up to 12th grade), students actually take sports as coursework, it makes sense right, schools are supposed to promote all round development after all. This gives kids an incentive to participate and try their best to get a good grade. The schools compete with each other and the best athletes are recruited and offered scholarships by colleges, obviously parents want their kids to get these scholarships.

    Then come sports at college level which are passionately followed and heavily televised. And then its during the college years that the best athletes get the Olympic training, thats why if you check, many American Olympic athletes go to big name colleges which have excellent facilities thanks to private money. So maybe the corporates should create schools with excellent sports facilities, this will both develop good athletes and they will have a degree if things dont work out.

  8. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 14, 2008 10:19 am

    Nita:

    “… one shouldn’t compare because the Chinese have a different political system, a system that can make things happen … what I like about China is their attitude to Sports..they think winning Olympic medals is critical, a matter of great prestige…and they give it the funding and energy it requires …”

    There are two sides to this argument. The erstwhile USSR, with a similar (perhaps more autocratic) system, excelled in quite a few sports, and also in some performing arts such as ballet and classical music. Their achievements in the applied sciences and technology always had the USA tense — if not in hysterics — during the cold war years, despite the latter being THE world leader in those fields.

    What the Soviet Union did to sustain its achievements and glory in the fields of culture and sports was to create a state-sponsored elite who, at the same time, were under the constant Big-Brother-like scrutiny and largely isolated from the rest of their own people. After the demise of the USSR, this elitism is on the wane. No longer does Russian ballet raise the same kind of thrill as it did then.

    What is more noticeable is that the common people are worse off in todays Russia under the Soviet system.

    China’s story is somewhat similar, only with a time lag of a couple of decades, and they are generally headed in the same direction.

    Corporate support is fine as long as its primary motivation is to promote excellence and not what mileage the company can extract out of good performances. And that kind of motivation can come only if it flows from a CEO with the right attitude, vision and imagination (such as the Tata who made India’s very first participation in the Olympics possible, long before independence), not from a Board comprising faceless entities.

    As for the people’s support, it is a sad truth that we Indians are more concerned with glamour and “national” honour than we are with the spirit of sport. That is why virtually everything in sport other than cricket fails to strike a chord among us. Abhinav Bindra is not the first, nor will he be the last, to achieve individual glory. There are many others who, even though they did not win an Olympic medal, nonetheless strove for and achieved excellence: Milkha Singh, P T Usha, Geet Sethi, Prakash Padukone, to mention just a few; but they were not glamorous star material when it came to selling soap and toothpaste, so they were soon forgotten.

    It was sickening to hear on the news channels, within hours of Bindra’s achievements, talk about his possible earnings from endorsements. Fortunately, it seems, Bindra’s family is well-heeled enough not to let such considerations distort his priorities. But one never knows. Let’s wait and watch.

    My sense is that even if kabaddi or gilli-danda were to be admitted as competitive sports at the Olympics, the Indian team might win a Gold or a Silver (remember our immediate competitor would be Pakistan, with the same traditions, so even a Gold is not assured) at the first olympiad, not even a Bronze at the next, and would possibly fail to qualify for entry at the third.

    Vivek, Well, yes ofcourse their system is different and a hard one. I have not denied that. However they do have a will to succeed and a strong desire to win. But as you rightly pointed out, one does not know what will happen if communism collapses in China. And about sports, there is also wrestling which I think we are okay at…but ofcourse not international level. – Nita.

  9. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 14, 2008 10:21 am

    Corrigendum: In the 4th (short) para above, “…in today’s Russia than under…”

  10. August 14, 2008 10:30 am

    Time to focus on who wins the next medal? It would be a pity if no more were won. Personally I am happy India has its first individual gold medal ever but I hope that in 2012 there will be many more. Its nice that he is from my city although from the suburbia. I hope he gets a chance to relax for a while the guy kind of looks dazzled. He also seem to have a very pressing father! As long as he enjoys what he does its nice. Sports is not about winning but playing to win each time. If you win it is fine, if you lose there is a next time I hope people remember it next time he is up in an international competition.

    I know what you mean. It will be sad if we win no more next year. Because whether we will win next year is already decided now. Whoever has to win, already has to be in the system, the right person. – Nita.

  11. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 14, 2008 11:37 am

    Nita:

    //Lack of a sports culture (which I think is due to lesser leisure time)//

    I think the vast majority of us are content to be mere sports spectators (and of course commentators). That is not conducive to a “sports culture”.

    And with TV as our main window on sports (which take second place to stupid serials, rising to fist place only when an event with a high glamour quotient is telecast) we don’t even have to take the trouble of actually going out to the venue of the action. We have become a country of happy couch potatoes — worse, zombies — quaffing drinks and munching snacks (with convenient commercial breaks for refills) while the players slog it out in the field. Sports culture indeed!

    🙂 – Nita.

  12. August 14, 2008 12:48 pm

    Abhinave is one intelligent young person that i much admire more for his maturity and attitude

    Corruption is a universal phenomenon but this country more importantly lacks accountability and people in power get away with things, because they are never held accountable

    Take the example of the AGs office or the Lok Ayuktas
    How much powers does it have?
    During the british times accountability was a first priority over finance – goto Himachal and see the massive AGs office u will understand

    Now it isn’t – i know because a senior citizen retired as a DAG told me that he had made a big mistake in life choosing AGs office over RBI job when he started out with his career in the 50s because then it then paid better than the RBI (was an old british policy – a short term thing )

    Abhinav is very mature for his age isn’t he! What you said about accountability is so right. There is no accountability in the government services, whether in schools or colleges of the offices. – Nita.

  13. August 14, 2008 12:53 pm

    interesting comment vivek

    india has been winning gold in kabaddi in asian sports events
    but the chinese have started training for it !
    so lets see how long that winning spree lasts

  14. August 14, 2008 1:21 pm

    i don’ t know what more to add to what you have already stated…

    Thanks for being here Sakhi. – Nita.

  15. August 14, 2008 5:10 pm

    Very well written Nita. //I get goose flesh when I hear our national anthem playing in a movie hall so you can imagine my plight when the national anthem played after Abhinav Bindra won India’s first ever individual gold medal at the Olympics.// plight of our generation I guess.
    Not only Gugin other Chinese columnists and papers expressed the same emotion. This is the bitter truth we have to swallow. Abhinav Bindra said, and I agree, cricket alone cannot give India a sporting culture. Kapil Dev once said that Indian parents work hard for their children taking them from one tution class to the other ,while in the western countries parents focus on sports as well. No wonder they produce Olympic champions.
    Incidents like Monica Devi’s goofed up dope test make it worse. Not very long back we witnessed the sting operation exposing former IHF official Jyothikumaran in the cash for selection scam. Abhinav Bindra had a rich dad who could provide him with the facilities. More than that he had faith in his son. How many parents can afford it in India? There was a TV show once on the facilities provided to our athletes. It was sad. Lack of ammunition, shuttle cocks make situation worse.

  16. August 14, 2008 5:16 pm

    “keeps a watch on where the money is going”
    Exactly, since in India money always flows in the wrong pockets.
    If we could just stop sulking in cricket and move to other sports may be the athletes will get the something more than money or fame… support from the people!!! I think they deserve support more than anything else.

  17. August 14, 2008 5:16 pm

    @ Nita

    I read the post at 6 am my time, and wanted to comment. Now 6h30 min later – much of which I spent doing my 100-push-up challenge, uphill walk and Pilates not all of which is pleasant – I refer to Vivek’s comment about the relationship between the culture of sports and the cultural preference to be armchair-sportsmen and women.

    The following is a collection of things that I may well eventually be able to weave into a coherent argument – and a possible post – sometime later. So do bear with me.

    First of all, when someone is playing, someone has to watch. As the old saying goes – cricket is a game that 22 fools play and 22,000 fools watch (millions not thousands in case of India). But the cultural preference for watching does not automatically make India as a nation which can not also be a nation of sports excellence. In fact the couch potatoes are essential to the ‘appreciation’ of sport. No?

    That said, there are possibly many more fundamental factors.

    In a nation of 1 Billion, there has never been a culture of exercise or physical activity – be it because of our rather voluminous clothing e.g. sarees, dhotis, salwar-kameez etc or the issues we have with the form of human body on display in fitting clothes that make movement easy. The only exceptions of sports or physical activity related excellence that we find are individual not societal or systemic – whether it be the pehelwaans in akhaadas in UP or an Abhinav Bindra being able to afford a relatively expensive pursuit.

    Decades of socialism and relative poverty made most of us relatively risk averse. So we chose ‘safe’ professions like medicine, engineering and law, which continue to the middle class parents’ first choice for their children’s education. Sport is a high risk profession, with relatively short shelf-life for individuals. Somewhere Bindra’s family being well-off has played a role in it. I wonder what sport he might have chosen if he were from a poorer family… As our attitudes change and we gain confidence, sport may well attract the government’s (and other systemic) attention. Here I cite John Adams, a quote that I list amongst my favourites in my blog’s ‘About Me’ section: “I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.”

    However policy priorities in a country like India – a vibrant, multi-partite democracy – are highly negotiated settlements. So they should be. In a way I am glad that sport is not a priority; I would have liked it if universal literacy, universal employability and skills and reduction of abject poverty were policy priorities but not having these on the agenda is also a function of what the political players/ parties are willing to agree on.

    It may well be that I am 75 years old or something when the Indian team begins to bring a haul of Olympic medals to India but if the change comes about slowly rather than drastically, it is likely to be more sustainable. There is likely to be broader buy-in, as well as more strategic changes than just knee-jerk reactions to ostensibly injured national pride after each Olympics.

    Makes sense? As I said, I may write about this later. For now, I have to add some more walking to my day’s work…🙂

    Sorry for the long comment.

  18. August 14, 2008 5:23 pm

    @ Nita:

    Quick addition – I think the question to ask is – “What in India encourages rather than what discourages and actively dissuades the pursuit of sport as a profession?” It gives us some answers but I am reasonably confident that the most brutal answers under the ‘what encourages’ heading will not be systemic factors.🙂

  19. August 14, 2008 5:38 pm

    i have a couple of frnds who have given up sports and others are there who are planning to stop after they get into coll….it is sick that the parents also don’t encourage…and of course the way the teachers and the system taunts people to get marks…

  20. August 14, 2008 6:13 pm

    Prerna, true what you said, Indian parents don’t want their kids to take up sporting as a career and I think uncertainity is one reason, which Shefaly has elaborated on in her comment. In any case, to reach the international level in sports, real merit counts, not “pull” or “influence” or whatever parents feel their “baby” can fall back upon. There was (is? ) a similar attitude to music too and in this field also I have heard some nasty things about top singers trying to crush the beginners.

    Xylene, I think so too. We shouldn’t just start writing off our sportpeople if they lose. A game is a game after all. And we need to see the merit in the player.

    Shefaly,
    100 push-ups! I am jealous!🙂
    Thanks for your analysis. We are not a sporting nation as you say, and your reasons are right…people have other priorities. Also you suggest that maybe if we as a nation have other priorities it is good. This was there somewhere at the back of my mind but you have brought it out into the forefront. I think it is an important point…whether or not India should focus on Sports, like China has done. I think the reason is that you get instant respect on the global stage…but as you said, it’s worth debating how important it is.
    About your other questions, what discourages…I think it’s the insecurity as you yourself pointed out. In India now merit has started to count in many fields more than it ever did before (not in government, where accountability is still low) and therefore there is no guarantee that a talented player will be selected. If you hear the horror stories about talented players being sidelined you will be shocked.
    And thanks for the long comment.🙂

    Vishesh, marks is what gets the jobs. Parents want that.

  21. August 14, 2008 7:11 pm

    he looks so modest every line he wrote speaks volumes about his charecter,.,
    and he is right we should support the people even if they dint win .. participating itself is a big achievemnt..

    i think lack of support i anohter reason why many sportsperson dont come up these days,,
    children are never appreciated when he plays something or when he is passionate about sports..

    i just hope indian govenrmnet atleast form now does something for thse long forgotten sports

  22. August 14, 2008 7:40 pm

    The presence of fire in Indians is like a lightening bolt. It happens with enormity and lasts for infinitesimally small time. So, Abhinav’s Gold will serve as inspiration only for those officials who wish to make more money expecting a greater popularity for Olympics when India competes next time. If any thing good comes out of this medal at all, then it’ll add to my pride of being a Indian!

  23. August 14, 2008 8:00 pm

    hmm….but isn’t that against our “culture” where all we are supposed to be doing are seeking peace ?😉

  24. August 14, 2008 8:40 pm

    Very good post, Nita. I was actually thinking if I had anything to comment at all🙂
    Tell me about the goose-bumps. We have been watching every other sport and the day we saw Bindra win and the tricolor come up and the anthem being played, we stood up and I could feel the hair on my arms stand straight!
    About China – I think the kind of Government they have is probably one of the reasons why people HAVE to indulge in something as a way of life. And I guess the government has policies that support sports too. Infact I was watching the gymnastics event and the commentator said that some of the girls had not seen their parents for years. One girl’s parents asked her not to take a vacation cos the Olympics was nearing! So yes, it calls for utmost dedication.
    Its not enough if we just think that a country with a population as large as ours is winning gold over gold in the Olympics. There has be a backing and that is clearly missing in India.
    Unfortunately, as Bindra says, all this talk becomes important only when someone wins something for the country. After sometime, it just fades away and everyone forgets about it.

  25. August 14, 2008 9:42 pm

    Arvind, I really liked his personality. I rate modesty as a very great virtue.

    Su, liked the way you described it!🙂

    Vishesh, there you have it….the hypocrisy of our society ! We aren’t really seeking peace are we…and on another note, the level of violence in our country has started to frighten me.

    snippets, thanks for sharing. I have heard these stories about chinese (and Russina) athletes working very hard and often not having a choice in the matter…can’t imagine it ever happening in India. We will have to follow the system of countries like the USA which Vikram mentioned but ofcourse the way things are now, it is impossible. But we can try to make it that way.

  26. August 14, 2008 10:10 pm

    There is something in the hyperlinked word in this sentence. Check it out
    “When players are selected by paying bribes, as it happened in hockey, what can we expect? ” and also “an example is Lakshmi Mittal (steel billionaire) who has provided millions of dollars to promising athletes.”

    I think the corruption in selecting must be happening in Cricket too. It cant be that in such a game involving so much money there isnt partiality and bribery during selection.
    Even cricketers have to bear the brunt of Indians’ vagaries…god one day next day burn their effigies. Cricket really needs to be brought down from the pseudo status of National game. As for Infrastructure goes, Hockey requires far less than Cricket and we even used to excel in that. But somehow cricket overshadowed it. Also we need to the change the mindset of parents of talented players of sports other than cricket ; as the popular saying describes
    Padhoge Likhoge Banoge Nawab
    Kheloge Kudoge Hoge Kharab.

    Rest all the points u have already written🙂

    Reema, thanks for pointing that out! Have corrected the broken links. Actually you are right about cricket, there must be something fishy here too, but I guess less than the other sports. There is also a lot of regionalism in selection, I believe that each region needs to be adequately represented. I think these things should not matter, only excellence should matter. And as for that saying, it sums up a lot of things in a nutshell! And it’s easy to understand too!🙂

  27. August 15, 2008 12:09 am

    Hi Nita,
    Do catch up my post on the same.
    We remember sport players just before Olympics and they are usually ignored in favour of “young” cricket stars.

    You have mentioned that Abhinav’s victory was financed by his family. Ouch, that must have hurt the foot sores of some football and hockey players.

    thanks for your response katya. – Nita.

  28. raghav in geisterstadt permalink
    August 15, 2008 5:43 am

    It is a great deal about money as well.

    I have something to share which our physical edu. teacher told in 11th and 12th.

    The jat land (Haryana) is famous for producing the best boxers in India. Many of tthe good ones look forward to go to Cuba for training. There was this lad becoming very popular after the results of the northern zone n state championships and wanted to go to Cuba for advanced training. So he went to the sports minister of state to ask for help of Rs 2 lacs. The minister asked him first tell me if i get u this money how much will u pay me.

    Anyways, as i watched Abhinav getting medal with national anthem playing in the background, I felt pain in my heart n wanted to cry.

    I just hope at least with the wanting to be sportsmen or women, who have money n resources, Abhinav has triggered a thing or two.

  29. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 15, 2008 7:42 am

    raghav in geisterstadt:

    Your story about The Haryana boxer and his sports minister does not shock me. For almost everyone in India who has anything to do with promoting sport, the foremost concern is “what’s in it for me?”.

    I remember, as a child in the pre-TV days, feeling ashamed to see photographs, and newsreels in cinema halls, of the obscenely outsize Indian “contingent” in successive Olympic inaugural march-pasts. It always had more babus from Delhi than sportspersons. Everyone wore a standard blazer and turban. The only way to tell them apart was that the babus usually headed the Indian column, had pot-bellies and their expressions said “when will this damn event get over so that I can go and do my shopping?” For them the Olympics were just a junket, and they were usually taken better care of than the second-rate citizens of India who were actually
    competing.

    Your sports minister is just a more slimy version of one of those babus-on-a-junket.

  30. August 15, 2008 9:14 am

    What Abinav said was absolutely true. We need to bck those athletes too who toil a lot but might not be able to win. All this is called Sportsmanship, which unfortunately is missing out. Sportsmndhip is about being positive and giving an unconditional support. I think along with the prestige feeling Sportsmanship is also required to shine internationally. And true that Poverty, illiteracy and corruption are the main causes for the plight of sports in India. We tend to me more emotional, instead we should learn to be a sport🙂
    BTW, as I say I always like the variety of topics you discuss about, BUT I particularly peeked in to your blog today (inspite of loads of work) as I was quite curious on what topic you would discuss on Independence Day! Waitinf for your August 15th Post🙂

  31. August 15, 2008 3:22 pm

    Congratulations! You have been awarded with “Brilliant Weblog Award”. Please visit my blog to collect it.

    Thanks Rajat. – Nita.

  32. August 15, 2008 6:37 pm

    Thank you🙂

  33. raghav in geisterstadt permalink
    August 15, 2008 8:48 pm

    @ Vivek

    I guess i cud’n agree lesser with you.

  34. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 15, 2008 9:34 pm

    @ raghav in geisterstadt:

    I’m not sure I understand you. I am familiar with the expression “…couldn’t agree…more…”. What you say seems to carry the opposite meaning, unless I got it entirely wrong.

  35. August 15, 2008 10:41 pm

    Raghav, That’s a very interesting anecdote, and I am not at all surprised either! I am sure that this must be the practice in most of the sports.

    Manoj, we are all too obsessed with winning aren’t we, and we can see this behavior in cricket. I think sports has become a way for some national glory and with Pakistan becomes a war!
    And this year I have no 15th of August Post. I don’t usually like to write general posts on this topic and prefer issue-based posts. Last year I had published this post which was a Tribute to Indian soldiers and even though of re-posting it today. But that post is already posted twice on this blog so I didn’t. Thanks Manoj for being a reader.

  36. Raghav permalink
    August 16, 2008 2:04 am

    @ Vivek

    You r right. Blame it on my Angrezi.

  37. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    August 16, 2008 10:07 am

    Few things that I would like to add :
    # Lack of interest from wealthy private schools which have the necessary financial backing to build a decent sports infrastructure,but fail to do anything about it due to a lack of will or vision.

    #Majority of Indian parents who still view sport as a investment-return scenario for their kids i.e.Why should my kid run behind a ball when he can focus on his studies to make a decent living?[Probably would come under sports culture]

    #Role models:Sporting heroes as role models are still confined to cricket.Systems need to be in place at a local and national level to honour and award all our sporting heroes,monetarily and otherwise, to get some degree of interest from parents who might then consider sports as a career option for their kids.

  38. August 16, 2008 3:41 pm

    Excellent post! I think its absolutely vital that we realize that no individual is bigger than the sport, and this is where I strongly oppose Dhoni being awarded the Khel Ratna award! He’s still in his 20s and all he’s achieved is to lead us to a 20-20 world cup triumph.. Does this imply that he’s a better athlete than all the others in the country? This is ridiculous…
    Abhinav Bindra is bang on target (no puns) when he says that the government and sports authorities should appreciate the effort it takes for an athlete to be qualified for the Olympics and not only when they win!

  39. August 16, 2008 10:35 pm

    Totally agree with you, Nita.

    Abhinav Bindra was self-sponsored and his family supported him. But how many of us can really make it?

    In a country like ours, people go ga-ga over cricket. How many of us know the names of sportsmen in Hockey or even Football? Just because Bindra own a gold-medal, the media is patting him. Moreover, the status of a sports person’s life is poor in our country except cricket since the cricketers make hell lot of money through the advertisements.

    When I was in school, few of my friends(gals) were in athletics or NCC. After coming back from competitions, they used to complain that there weren’t proper restrooms or green rooms for them to change and even proper food wasn’t given to them. After participating once or twice, they gave up due to lack of facilities and they said it wasn’t worth slogging being in NCC.

  40. August 18, 2008 1:30 am

    I am proud of Abhinav. But still I am just curious if anyone remembers India’s First Medal? And who won it? Nita, I am sure you know Khashaba Jadhav!

  41. August 18, 2008 5:45 pm

    This is an interesting post. It is important for us to analyse the diseases our sports are suffering from and what are the ways to eliminate them!! Only then we will be able to start thinking beyond cricket!

  42. August 18, 2008 10:25 pm

    Good points Nitin. I think our schools are more interested in producing toppers rather than sports people.

    Nikhil, thanks. It is great that even though Abhinav has won the medal he is trying to say that it’s not winning, but competing that matters.

    Manasa, not much importance is given to sports, even in good schools and so one can imagine the plight of people in poorer schools. People do not see this as a lucrative career.

    Suda, I am afraid I am not very well up on sports in our country. If you notice I have very few posts on sports on this blog! I get interested in a sport but my interest flags after a while.

    Nova, cricket is the mantra! It’s very difficult to change public preferences and cricket is part of our culture now. It will take a long long time!

  43. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 18, 2008 10:45 pm

    Suda/Nita,

    In case you have not already seen it, do follow this link:

    http://www.rediff.com/sports/2000/sep/13jhadha.htm

    And kudos to Faisal Shariff for one of the rare good pieces of Indian investigative journalism I have seen.

  44. mythili permalink
    August 18, 2008 10:54 pm

    India’s lack of medals cannot be fully attributed to any of the causes listed above, it’s purely lack of will/hardwork and disinterest.
    Why blame the politician/school etc., why should they help you get a medal.
    I’ve lived in the US for 24 yrs. my kids are top A- level marathoners and swimmers.They are also gold medalists in taekwondo.
    do you know what it entails.
    1- ME driving my kids every weekend for yrs to their practise and meets often leaving home at 6am and returning at 11pm.
    2. They sacrificing their free time and tv and videoganes.
    3. my daughter practising her music for hrs in the hopes of getting into the philarmonic.
    4. We spending everything we have to nurture their talent.
    5. my spouse teaching my son math on the car on the way to meets.
    6. me and my spouse walking up at 3am to cook food and freeze it so we can give them nutritous meals daily.
    oh and i foret this was on top of day jobs and schools and my kids managed to graduate from harvard and michigan.

    so all it takes is a will to succeed and a heart to endure hardships. Even here in the US the govt doesn’t give anything free or help anyone. guys , remember ‘THERE ARE NO FREE LUNCHES’

    As indians we should first stop blaming everyone. Abinav bindra suceed because he toiled not because the school systems/politicians supported him.
    till the minset changes … well we can always watch the other countries raking up medals and enjoy i guess.

  45. August 21, 2008 10:23 am

    @Vivek Khadpekar
    You don’t know how I am touched by this article.
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    For those who DON”T know Khashaba Jadhav, please read this medals.http://www.rediff.com/sports/2000/sep/13jhadha.htm before talking about anything related to Olympics

    I have seen his photos on walls of many Wrestling Fans hung by side of our M. Gandhi.
    Cheers
    @Vivek
    I would like to know if you blog. If not, then I think you should🙂

  46. September 2, 2008 12:52 pm

    Indian Sport hurts because of all the false notions, stigma and dogma associated with it. For the record, cricket isn’t included in that list, but then again, I don’t consider cricket a sport. But this isn’t the place for that debate.

    For instance, Indians love to think they know everything about everything. Now, I am sure every Indian on this blog is going to pounce on me for that, but the truth is, we love giving advice, even when it isn’t worth a penny. We perpetuate half-truths and myths as reality. For instance the “lifting weights will make you short myth”. Sure this myth probably existed all over the world, but they soon dispensed off with it as soon as they had scientific proof to refute the claim, or how about “you can’t lose weight if you weight train, you will gain all the weight back if you stop. Diet is the way to go”. Now, people that think this is irrelevant to the sport scene, trust me, it isn’t. You aren’t going to be interested in weight lifting if you have no exposure to weight lifting. And probably the best place to get interested is a gym, training with weights. And it won’t hurt to have a few more olympic standard gyms across the country.

    Then there is the “Indian attitude” that sports will get the money they deserve if they perform. Now that is perhaps the worst way to look at helping our image in the international sporting community. Not to mention that even in sports that India has done well in, there has been little or no financial incentive. For instance, few people know that Karnam Malleshwari is a two time world champion, and won another bronze at the World Championships, which is the holy grail for the weightlifters. And She would have won a lot more medals at the Olympics if the IOC had recognized women’s weightlifting before the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The incentive she got was only after she returned with her medal from Sydney.

    I could give you loads of instances of Indian hypocrisy when it comes to sport and those will still not be enough to change even a handful of attitudes.

    To be the cynic among the optimists, Indian sport needs a lot more than a gold by AB. We have won medals before, and they have not really inspired. What the Indian sport community needs isn’t “inspiration”. They must have enough passion to be in the sports that they are, considering the abundance of wealth that is being poured into the system (note: sarcasm). I will refrain from stating what they DO need, since I think it is far too obvious. And, before I am thrown off this blog, let me add, MONEY isn’t the only thing missing in Indian sport.

    Lastly, I apologize for rambling, but as you might have gathered I am a weightlifting fan and it rather bugs me when people (read Indians) make the kind of accusations about the sport that they usually do. And the mention of cricket in the post didn’t help😀.

    That’s a very interesting point DD, about the various myths we imbibe. I think it does have a relevance to sports as many of these myths are about exercise and about food. I think the reason these myths get perpetuated is because our society teaches us to value the words of the elders, many of whom talk crap. Talking from experience. When I was pregnant, the crappiest advise I got was from the elders. Luckily I was an avid reader and didn’t fall into the trap. – nita.

  47. guqin permalink
    September 5, 2008 8:59 am

    We shouldn’t overly stretch the meaning of Olympic golds. In fact I used to feel very negative about them since I thought (still think) that true sports are Tai Chi, Yoga and the like since they enhance life and can grow old with the “athletes”, while Olympic sports leave the athletes injured and tired in their twenties. Only not too long ago I figured that the Olympics could at least help us (China) to see ourselves better, at least to provide a chance to fail (like failures to the west in other stories.). This time the result turned out very good, it shows that we could top western nations in their games. But this is very much it. Stretching the meaning of the golds already does some harm (for example, the Liu Xiang story…)

    India’s performence should be understood with this vision in mind too. To my observation, though India’s more realist newer generations may deny it, but I think it still holds true that India is a spiritual nation, it has very limitted interests in western style sports since they are physical (for example, Bindra has been funded by his family alone without goverment supports). One should look beyond the gains (or loss) of Olympic golds to see its meaning. As it is today for India, it is more a decision than capability to win Olympics golds. If India decides that she needs it, then she can do it, and Bindra has taken the first step.

Trackbacks

  1. The Indian Olympic Medal Dream « Mashed Musings
  2. Would you let your child become an Olympic athlete ? « An academic view of India

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