India’s dismal medal tally at the Olympics — This is a totally unfair headline

In the morning I came across this headline in our newspaper:

The headline, very conveniently, puts the entire onus of bringing merely two medals (not a single gold) on the players. The article goes on to explaining how much money the government is spending on players and how even “foreign” coaches wouldn’t ensure a better performance in the recent Rio Olympics.

It is now a well-known fact that Indian players are treated very shabbily whether they are practising within the country or representing their country at an international sports meet. This link quotes Indian athlete Dutee Chand who travelled in economy class for 36 hours just before a major competition while the officials accompanying her travelled in business class

Dipa Karmakar, the Indian gymnast who performed a death-defying act at Rio went without her physiotherapist because it was considered “waste of money”. The official doctor accompanying the Indian team was not even a sports doctor, he was a radiologist. Reportedly he is the son of The Indian Olympic Association vice-president Tarlochan Singh. And this is the tip of the iceberg.

Most of the officials (non-players) travel first class and get first class accommodation while players are provided bare-minimum facilities. Their therapists and coaches are not allowed to travel with them. Renowned coaches like Gopi Chand could accompany their players because they are famous and well-known themselves and their players have already earned names in the international arena.

This link rightly says that the Indian players deserve an Olympic medal simply for being able to reach the venue despite corrupt and inefficient officials creating hurdles for them at every turn.

Events like the Olympics are used by bureaucrats, politicians, managers and officials to enjoy foreign trips. Very few are bothered about the welfare of the players and actually representing the country. The sports minister himself was reprimanded by the Olympic authorities for the rowdy behaviour of his entourage. Instead of becoming an asset for the players, these losers chose to become a nuisance and a liability.

See this

Our tally at various Olympics is a representation of our collective attitude towards sports. We want India to get medals to give us some jingoistic orgasms but we don’t want our kids to waste their time playing. There are no local sports facilities. Kids playing in the neighbourhood parks and grounds are strongly objected to. In our own building, the old dudes (all the retired folks) want a green lawn so they don’t allow youngsters to play over there. Cricket is tolerated because it has turned into a glamorous sport in our country, as it happens with every mediocre activity here.

The point is, getting medals at highly competitive events like the Olympics is a big deal. You can’t just one day wake up and start wishing that your country could get a medal. Years of preparation is needed. Sometimes there are individual sparks like Abhinav Bindra and P.V. Sindhu, but in most of the cases our chances of getting any medal are quite random and fate-dependent.

If India wants to get medals in the Olympics, we have to learn to respect our sports persons and provide them the facilities and financial backup that they need. We cannot just ignore them for 3 years and 11 months and then suddenly expect medals from them.

Heads must roll. Freeloading and bamboozling officials must be punished severely and they should lose their jobs if the conditions of the players don’t improve. That Tarlochan Singh chap should definitely lose his job. Only then we can expect something to improve.

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