India and Olympics
The Olympic Games is the world’s foremost sports competition, where almost all the nations (more than 200) participate. The first modern Games was hosted at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens in 1896, where 241 athletes from 14 nations competed in 43 events. World Wars had affected three cancellations of the Games in 1916, 1940 and 1944. Political turmoils resulting into large boycotts during the Cold War limited the participation in the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games. The Olympics covers many rituals and symbols, such as the Olympic flag and torch, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
India first participated in Olympic Games in 1900 (Paris), with a lone athlete (Norman Pritchard) winning two silver medals in athletics. India first sent a team to the Summer Olympic Games in 1920, and has participated in every Summer Games since then. India has also competed at several Winter Olympic Games since 1964. But the more organised, official representation by India, was made in 1928 Amsterdam, with the formation of Indian Olympic Association in 1927. Indian athletes have won a total of 20 medals so far, mostly in field hockey (11). The men’s field hockey team was dominant in Olympic competition, winning eleven medals in twelve Olympiads between 1928 and 1980, including six successive gold medals from 1928–1956. In 2008 Beijing Olympics, shooter Abhinav Bindra scripted history by becoming the first individual athlete to win a gold medal for India. Bindra clinched the medal in 10m air rifle event to end India’s long wait for individual gold. Boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar bagged a bronze medal apiece in Beijing to take India’s medal tally to three, which is the country’s best performance in the quadrennial event so far.
Hockey wizard Dhyan Chand played a major role in Indian victory in the first three successive wins. It was definitely the golden era of Indian Hockey in Olympics, during which India played 24 matches and won all 24. India again won two more gold medals in Olympic hockey in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Apart from Hockey and a few fine performances in athletics, India’s record in the Olympics paints a dismal picture. Apart from the 8 gold medals, one silver medal and two bronzes in Hockey, India has won three silvers and three bronzes.
Bollywood rules as the number one source of entertainment. Family participation in sports is not encouraged; hence the young fail to garner any interest in it. One would think that a country that is able to write software for the world would surely be able enough to come up with a rational plan to resurrect its athletes. Private sponsorship is still in its nascent stage and only available to those who have shown some performance internationally. If India wants medals at Olympics then it has to look at a long term plan. A country that has secured only a handful of medals in over hundred years is hardly going to win dozens overnight. Changes have to be made at the grass root level.
The attitude of our people has to be changed. Family sports events like triathlons should be held over the weekends to encourage family participation. Special sports scholarships should be issued to the deserving. Selections should be strictly based on performance and state wise quotas should not be the criteria to compete. In time the country will do a turn around, and perhaps the future might see India performing better at the Olympics.