Can India ever be a dominant force at Olympics?
By Express News Service
29th July 2012 12:00 AM
No. We Are 100 Years Behind China And US
Champions are not produced overnight. It needs years of hard work, commitment, passion and planning for one to emerge as a champion athlete. Once in four years, a few months before the Olympics, we make a hue and cry for medals at the world’s biggest event. There is a post-mortem after the event and then everything is forgotten. There should be a change in the mindset of the people and the administrators. We don’t learn from past mistakes.
If China has become one of the top three countries in the world, it is because of their commitment to sports. We talk of population and economy but when China is able to do it, why not India? That keeps puzzling me a lot. I think it will take 100 years for us to go anywhere near China.
In India’s case, it is the individual talent that has brought glory. We don’t really have a sporting culture. That is very important.
Unless we develop this, we cannot become a powerhouse in sports like the Chinese or the Americans. To be honest, I have been a great admirer of China as far as sports is concerned. They have a vision. They have planning. They have the facilities and, finally, the drive to become a top sporting country.
For example, if one Lin Dan (badminton men’s singles world number 1) retires, then there are 100 Lin Dans waiting to enter the world stage. In India, we don’t have a system that promotes sports or sportspersons. Where are the facilities? Where is the competition? These things are vital for the growth of sports in any country.
In India a sportsperson struggles from Day One. He or she has to think twice to make sports his or her career. There are many hurdles on the road to becoming a successful sportsperson.
Appreciation from the government and the federations is crucial to a sportsperson’s growth. Although there are perceptible changes in this regard, there are very few exposure trips.
The government should focus more on sports, particularly on infrastructure. We have to construct more stadia for sportspersons to train. The government has to come forward and prepare a blueprint for the development of sports, tap talent and groom children from the age of six or seven as the Chinese do.
As told to N Jagannath Das
Yes. Scene changing rapidly
Iwas fortunate to represent the country and be part of the gold-medal winning hockey team at Moscow in 1980. But for years, be it at functions or get-togethers, when I was referred to as the man who last captained a team to a gold medal for India at the Olympics, I did not enjoy the compliment. The reason was that India lagged behind most countries in sports.
Only if parents believe that their wards have a future in sports will our sporting culture improve. To be a force at the Olympics, we need to start focusing at the grassroot level and identify talented youngsters. What a promising athlete needs to succeed, apart from the right kind of training and coaching, is international exposure at the right time. For results to come, the athlete must believe that he has it in him to be a success at the top level. Thankfully, the government and various agencies associated with sports such as SAI are proactive, and corporates are lending support.
Unlike in the past, government agencies are spending money on athletes and their preparation for the Olympics. Even those such as Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, who earn more than most Indian athletes, receive funding.
This shows that the government means business and recognises the importance of sports.
If sports federations become more professional in their approach, and sporting culture grows in a big way in the country, India can be a force to reckon with at the Olympics in a decade or so.
As told to Ashok Venugopal
No. Till we only rely on hope
My answer would be yes if we drastically overhauled our sports system. But we continue to grope in the dark, hoping the system will throw up a champ now and then.
Take the example of Japan. They plan to win the football World Cup around 2050 or so with footballers who are yet to be born. They have already undertaken scientific research so that the Japanese babies born hereon are taller, stronger and sturdier, which will make them better placed to be good footballers.
Imagine the kind of planning involved.
A complete change in our attitude and approach to sports is needed if we are to become a sporting power. In India, we do have tall and strong men and women who can excel — provided they are given the right support, training etc. Unfortunately, our knowledge of sports science and sports psychology is virtually non-existent, and, for some, sports has become a money-making exercise. While aiming to be a force in sports, we must have national pride in mind. From the grassroots to the highest levels, we must focus on identifying talent and providing the right support.
Good coaches are very important. Indian or foreign, we can only learn from their experiences and knowledge. As such, a proper coaching mechanism must be in place in all disciplines.
Maybe, 2030 or 2040 would be a probable period for us to chalk out our road map. It will require immense vision and commitment but we can, if we work towards it.
As told to SS Shreekumar
Yes. But there is still a long way to go
Compared to other countries, awareness of sports came to India at least 20 years late. For instance, there was no shooting range in India till 1982, when we staged the 1982 Asian Games. That tells us a story. Fortunately, all this seems to have changed in the past few years.
We may not have taken giant steps, but there have been small strides towards achieving excellence in sports.
After the 2004 Athens Games, where Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won silver, and Abhinav Bindra made history with gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, we have among the 11 shooters participating in London, world-class performers in Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi. We also have definite medal hopes in archery, boxing and badminton.
There has been progress for sure. The government is showing more and more interest in sports and sanctioning more funds. The corporate sector is coming forward with aid.
There are many areas we still have to work on but, today, we find sportspersons, other than cricketers, finding sponsors. Facilities are far better than what they used to be a few years ago.
Foreign exposure trips, crucial to the success of sportspersons in major events such as the World Championships or Olympics, are increasingly frequent.
For India to really develop a sporting culture requires a long process and more professionalism.
But there are positive signs — for example, parents are encouraging their children to take up sports. Then, small cities and towns — unfamiliar with modern sports facilities for years — are now far better off and capable of producing talented youngsters. Seeing this, it is important to have sports as a subject in schools so that the interest in sports grow.
If we have a rich haul of medals at the London Olympics, interest in sports is bound to grow. With more medal-winning heroes, inspired youngsters can spark a sports revolution in the country.
No, we can’t match China and the US as powerhouses in sports in the near future. But yes, India can aspire to be a force to reckon with at the Asian Games. The next step would be to target the Olympic Games. There is still a long way to go but we can certainly be hopeful of a better future.
As told to N Jagannath Das
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