In 2004 Athens Olympics, India celebrated it’s achievement of the one silver medal it won in Shooting. After four years, in 2008 Beijing Olympics, India won a gold medal in 10m Air Rifle event and one bronze medal each, in Wrestling and Boxing. The international media appreciated this as a rare feat from a ‘non-athletic nation’. The tag ‘non-athletic nation’ can be refuted considering the craze for cricket in India. However, that is not the bone of contention here. India is considered as a non-athletic nation because of it’s consistent poor performance before the world audience in this quadrennial event.
India has 17% of the world population but won only 0. 31% of the total medals in Beijing Olympics. Thus, there is an urgent need for a strategy that can help India win more Olympic medals. It is important to understand ‘why’ India has not been able to get more Olympic medals before answering ‘how’ to get the same. Well, the sportsmen and women in India often complain about lack of adequate sources, funds, infrastructure, equipment, sponsorship and encouragement for sports and games other than cricket in the country.
Corruption, political intervention and unwillingness of sports authorities are also cited as the root causes. Inadequate training programmes and practice sessions which do not meet international standards are said to be another reason for dismal performances in the Olympics. Besides the above, another most important reason is the discouragement and disinterest showed by parents and teachers to their children’s interest in sports and games. The solution lies in addressing or targeting the above problems.
In the first place, parents and teachers should make an extra effort to identify a child’s inclination towards sports. Children of all ages should be encouraged to actively participate in sports as it will help in their overall physical and mental development. Schools should include sports as an integral part of their curriculum. Sports competitions should be held at local and regional levels, and students interested in a particular game, should be provided with further training.
This can help children cultivate sportsmanship qualities and also gain experience in the game. Secondly, the state and central governments should provide adequate funds and resources for upgraded training programs, necessary infrastructure, equipment and other facilities to sportspersons. For instance, the government and sports authorities in China have not only planned to successfully host 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, but also have designed ‘Project 119’ towards winning gold[s] in the medal rich sports of swimming, track, rowing, kayaking and sailing.
Under this project, intensive training at par with international standards was provided to athletes and participants of various games. India needs to design and implement such goal-oriented projects to clinch more medals in Olympic games. Thirdly, all the encouragement, resources and participation would go waste without a proper coach. The nuances and tricks of the game can only be learnt from a good trainer. Even in Mahabharata, the great India epic, a master-archer like Arjuna was trained by his versatile teacher, Dhronacharya.
Hence, trainers with good performance record, experience and exposure to national and international sports should be appointed as sports coach to train the athletes. In addition to this, steps should be taken to sever the tentacles of this monstrous octopus called ‘corruption’ which has made it’s way into every part of human life including sports and games. Sanctioning and providing adequate funds is one step but utilizing them efficiently for the purpose meant, is an altogether different step. Accounts should be audited to ensure proper appropriation of funds.
Authorities holding positions in sports organizations, associations and selection committees should be held accountable and punished in the event of any misuse of the allocated funds. Moreover, favoritism and bias in selection of team members, appointment of trainers, etc. should be strictly discouraged. It should be ensured that the only criteria for selecting a player or a coach on the team should be his/ her performance record and definitely not their personal background or relation with the members on Selection committee.
Care should be taken to not repeat cases like Monica Devi, a wrestler from Manipur, who was dropped from the Indian contingent to 2008 Beijing Olympics in the last minute. The issue is yet to be solved. Such incidents can lead to resentment among players. Finally, sports in India should expand and reach beyond cricket. Cricket has managed to attract huge fanfare, reputed brand names for sponsorship and popular celebrities like industrialists and bollywood actors. Cash-rich Indian Premier League stands as a testimony to this. Similar treatment is due to be accorded to other sports.
Private sponsorers including domestic and multinational companies should be invited to offer sponsorship to sportsmen of other games. Wide publicity should be given to other sports by broadcasting them on television. Medal winning performance should be duly rewarded by the central and state governments. However, inspite of all the hurdles and hiccups, Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijendra Kumar created history at the Beijing Olympics 2008. This clearly shows that without obstacles, India would stand second to none in the Olympic Medal chart.