Are the Indian athletes getting enough facilities to compete at world championships and Olympics? Absolutely not. Sadly, most in the country, who are busy criticising the contingent’s performance at the sporting extravaganza, will rather ask their wards, to concentrate on academics than focus on sports. Sport for their children is supposed to be just recreational but then they are critical when India doesn’t win medals in international events. Of course, parents are not at fault. Why will they encourage their kids to take up sports in a country where there isn’t much scope unless one manages to become a cricketer?
There are endless stories about how champions have spent the last days of their lives on the streets.
A few months back, there was a story about a wrestling centre in Katraj run by Maharashtra State Wrestling Association, where upcoming wrestlers did not have a coach appointed by the federation for many years. There were five toilets, with no bathrooms. In fact the wrestlers at the centre cooked their own food.
Similarly Sarwan Singh, who won gold medal for 110m hurdles at the 1954 Asian Game, was forced to work as cab driver and agriculture labourer. And who can forget VP Sathyan, the ex-football captain who committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train in 2006, due to financial crunches?
To add to the list is a 20-year old national level handball player Pooja who committed suicide recently, after being denied free hostel facility by her college authorities in Patiala.
So, if this is the way our athletes are being treated, who will want to make a career in sports?
What people are saying
Speaking to ‘Policy Pulse’, senior sports journalist Indranil Basu said that India could have done better at the just concluded Rio Olympics had the contingent won any medal upfront.
“We could have performed better than the previous Games in London, where India got six medals. But that didn’t happen. Because India didn’t win any medal upfront, which could have had an adverse impact on the contingent”, he said.
To make his point clear, Basu pointed out that after Shakshi won the bronze in wrestling, soon we saw Sindhu winning the silver. When asked where the country is lacking compared to China, which is a sports hub, Basu said India should catch talent young and train them vigorously like they do in China.
Abhishek Roy, an ex-sports journalist and presently a corporate communications manager feels that the principal reason behind failure in Olympics is the lack of policy and poor selection policy.
He added that the after the Beijing Olympics there has been upward swing in Government support towards Olympic disciplines, but lack of professionalism in the sports federation is still ailing the system. “We don’t need the Sindhus of future to travel 60kms every day to train. We need to invest in world class sports infrastructure in a planned way.
Without the right kind of infrastructure we can’t think of producing Olympic medal winners or World Champions” said Roy.
He however felt that it is wrong to suggest that the current success by two girls is the rise of girl power in sports in the country.
“It will be unfair to say that there has been a rise in girl talent in Rio. In fact in Beijing also Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal won bronze medals as well. We have the momentum and now we have to ensure that we sustain that” Roy added.
Another journalist and columnist Saswat Panigrahi felt that India is yet to see its right moment. “We as a nation must respect the players of all type of sports along with cricket,” he stated.
Other experts believe that the country has to come out of the shadow of cricket, which has done tremendous damage to other sports. “After the failure of Rio Olympics, government should immediately start planning for Tokyo Olympics. A panel should be selected comprising at least four former Olympians and a government official. The panel will plan out to improve the infrastructure and facilities for our sportspersons”, says another sports expert on the condition of anonymity.
“A talent hunt for young players should be started this winter itself. They should be trained with proper stipends and jobs if possible,” he added.
He also suggested that instead of focusing on all games, the Government should prioritise like shooting, archery, tennis, hockey, boxing and wrestling, in which country has the potential to do well.