We are back in the dark ages. The prospect of returning empty handed from the Olympics, for the first time since Barcelona ‘92, are looming large. The notion that we are growing into a sporting nation is misplaced. It’s simply obnoxious to think an Olympic medal will be delivered on a platter. There is something fundamentally wrong in people’s expectations. When it comes to participation, the number might have swelled to over 100, but are we really good enough? Except for a few sports – badminton, shooting, hockey, wrestling and boxing – we are still not world class. We are playing catch-up to the world’s best.
In Asian and Commonwealth Games, we can prosper, but in Olympics we will continue to perish unless some drastic steps are taken. Improvement is subjective. When we talk about it individually, the numbers definitely show we have progressed. However, compared to other countries, we simply lag behind. It is very easy to dissect the performance of our athletes but it’s not their problem. In most developed nations, care is taken right from the school-level. There are psychologists and sports medicine experts guiding them all the time. In India, sports is not even compulsory in schools. The government has started spending money on athletes only since last year, with a novel initiative — Target Olympic Podium Scheme. If we care to win medals in the next Olympics, we must continue this.
After all the dibble-dabble and chit-chat, it finally comes down to our society. We lack a sporting culture. Will any middle-class parent risk asking their ward to pursue sport and forget about studies? We are a nation of 1.3 billion people but can’t we find anyone who can win a medal constantly? The answer lies in the grassroots programme. Without targeting young children, we will never win a medal. Another Olympics is almost over. Can we dare to dream for the next one? Yes, only if we change.