In exactly 363 days, on the 27th of July 2012, the most spectacular sporting spectacle in the world will begin in England’s capital, London.
The Olympics are the most anticipated and the most celebrated sporting event in the world. It is the one stage where all the athletes want to put in their best efforts. Since 1896, when the first Modern Olympic Games were held at Athens, it has been a constant feature ever since, where all the top athletes from over 200 countries around the world, meet at a different city every four years. For over a hundred years the Games have been going strong as a symbol of sportsmanship, excellence and resilience. The games have carried on in face of adversity, from Nazism during Berlin 1936 to terrorism in Munich 1972. Only the two world wars could stop the Olympics from running as scheduled.
With less than a year to go now for the 2012 edition of the Games to begin at London, England, there has been quite a lot of buzz surrounding the mega sports event. This is the third time that the English capital is hosting the Olympics and the authorities have promised us to make them the most spectacular event in the Games’ history. With swanky new venues, which include an artificial beach and a plethora of modern amenities for both participants and spectators, London has outdone itself so far with the arrangements preceding the Games. But as an Indian sports fan, my interest in the upcoming Olympic Games lies mostly around India’s performance. We must wait to see whether India improves on its overall medals tally from last time.
India has never really set the Olympic stage on fire with its performance despite having some very talented athletes. Except in our national game, hockey, in which the Indian team has won 11 medals, with eight being gold out of which six came back-to-back from 1928–1956. Our hockey team hasn’t made an impact on the biggest stage with any kind of frequency after that run of golds though. India has won a total of 20 Olympic medals. Our first individual Olympic medal came in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics where Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won a bronze in the Men’s freestyle bantamweight wrestling. After that, our next individual medal came much later in 1996 at Atlanta when Leander Paes won another bronze in men’s singles tennis. Apart from them, individual medals have been limited at the Olympics until last year.
So what gives me the confidence that India is going to give its best performance yet in 2012? If we look at India’s Olympic medal tally after 1996, the country has progressed by leap and bounds. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari won a bronze medal in the Women’s 69 kg competition. In the following Olympics at Athens in 2004, India won its first ever silver medal. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was the man who raised the bar for India by coming second in the Men’s Double Trap shooting event. But India’s best year at the Olympic Games came in 2008 at the Beijing Games when we won three medals, one of which was gold! Abhinav Bindra became the first ever Indian athlete to win an individual Olympic gold medal when he hit the bull’s eye in the Men’s 10m Rifle shooting event. This was followed by a bronze in Men’s 66 kg freestyle wrestling by Sushil Kumar. Then pugilist Vijender Singh won a bronze medal in the Men’s 75 kg boxing event. India, for the first time, had won more than one medal at a single Olympic Games. It was indeed a proud moment for the entire country.
Considering India’s progress report over the past three Olympics, there is a very good chance that we will further improve from the last time. From bronze to silver to gold, from one to three medals in one year, the Olympic graph has shown a definite rise. And like every Indian, I am highly optimistic about our chances. Hopefully my prediction comes true in a year’s time.