The three golden girls of India: Sindhu, Sakshi & Dipa have, with their sterling performances in the just concluded Rio Olympics, won overwhelming laurels and done India proud. They have also proved Sobhaa De wrong.
And, for a change, the irrepressible Sobhaa, who has been roundly accused, abused and pilloried on the social network, graciously said on NDTV that she was happy to have been proved wrong.
These daughters of India deserve all the awards, rewards & honours being showered on them. There is every reason to believe that they will do better at the next Olympics. And their success stories will inspire hundreds of other aspiring athletes to work hard and try to excel in their sports of choice. It augurs well for the future of sports in India.
There was also an unmistakable message for politicians who, most of the time, bitch against each other ie sports could be the best uniting force in our country. When Sindhu was fighting for the Gold, 1.25 million Indians irrespective of their caste, creed and religion were rooting for her to win. When Virat Kohli hits a sixer, every Indian glued to a TV set jumps in exultation.
In that moment of exhilaration, the whole nation becomes one; differences of every possible nomenclature disappear. Wish the leaders of India could imaginatively utilise the goodwill, positive energy and overpowering national fervour which sports & Games achievers generate! They could be the most effective Ambassadors of the Unity of India.
However, let us get real. What Shobhaa De didn’t say was that the tally of two Olympic medals (one silver & one bronze) for a country of our population wasn’t much to boast about. In fact, it is pretty modest! Almost a national embarrassment! It speaks volumes about the priority assigned to sports in general by the Govt, India Inc, educational institutions ,families and individuals. It also flags the issues of the availability of funds, infrastructure, facilities for coaching & mentoring, encouragement to promising athletes .
Above all, it exposes how unprofessionally the sports bodies are administered in India. If Sobhaa De has replaced the word athletes with bureaucrats in her comment, none would have objected to it.
Most of the time, the junkets which accompany the athletes have the simple motto: ghumo, phiro, khao, piyo, selfie nikalo, souvenirs kahrido aur ghar bapas jao! Even if India’s contingent for Rio was lighter by 2 dozen babus, our tally of medals would have remained the same!
The size of the China’s Economy is four times that of India. But in Rio Olympics, China got a total of 70 medals including 26 gold and 18 silver. Our former colonial rulers, UK, got 27gold and 23 silver. According to a press report Great Britain has achieved one medal per million people, while the USA won 0.4 medals per million and China - the world's largest country in population - gained 0.05 medals per million.
In the BRICS group, Russia got a total of 56 medals, Brazil 19; South Africa 10 & India just 2 ! Frankly, trashing Shobaa’s untimely & inappropriate comment isn’t going to improve India’s tally of Olympic medals.
How can India be transformed into a medal winning nation? Here is my practical & doable recipe:
Let there be single-minded national goal to get a total of 20 medals in2020 Olympics in Tokyo accompanied by unflinching commitment to do whatever it takes.
Adequate Funds are a must. Neither infrastructure, nor training & coaching facilities, nor grooming & mentoring nor required kits nor participation in competitive tournament is possible without funds.
While Govts, both Central & State, must enhance budgetary allocations for Sports, India Inc, Pvt educational institutions, rich sports enthusiasts should chip in a big way to popularise & promote sports in India. If they can sponsor T-20 & numerous film based Realty Shows on TV, why can’t they shell out a few crores for sports?
On the lines of the Swachh Bharat cess, there should be a Sports facilitation cess on all tax payers.
While the abolition of the Sports Ministry isn’t advisable, its main responsibility should be to mobilise necessary funds, create world class sports facilities and supervise that Sports bodies are run professionally on international standards.
All sports bodies at District, State & National level must be headed by sportspersons who have played at the Distt, State and national level. Taking a leaf from the recommendations of Lodha Commission for BCCI, politicians should be debarred from heading sports bodies.
While 34000 schools which don’t even have a roof over their heads don’t have stadia for sports, all pvt schools, colleges & universities which charge substantially high fee must be directed to spend certain percentage of their total budget on sports or face de-recognition.
Promising boys and girls who have potential to be athletes in future should be picked up at early age. Pursuit of sports should be made easier by offering higher number of seats for those students who show excellence in sports. Encouragement should also be provided by incentives of scholarships & offers of jobs.
Parents too owe a huge responsibility to promote sports. If they can press their children to work day and night to become Civil Servants, they can also goad their children to take to sports. No promising athlete has to give up his ambition for want of funds. In many villages & kasbas poor parents can’t afford even to buy good quality running shoes or tennis/badminton racket or a cricket bat. Needy parents must be supported financially to let their children pursue sports.
We shouldn’t fritter away our energies & resources on a huge variety of sports; it will be prudent to focus on a select category of sports in which we have credible potential. The list can be expanded depending upon our performance.
The politicians should have no say in the selection of India’s contingent for International competitions including Olympics. Instead of fighting over the medal winners, they should utilise their resources, clout & support to help create MEDAL WINNERS.
Modi has undertaken promotion of Yoga with a missionary zeal. If he shows the same degree of interest & enthusiasm for Sports, Indian can win 20 medals in Tokyo!