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Can India run, leap and jump to Olympic glory?

What can India do in the next few years to do well in the Olympic games?

Children playing in a park

Remembering the good old days

The resplendent greenery bedecked with an array of enticing colours is a normal sight for any rider on the countryside, and even in some pockets on the highways of Assam, for those who live here or are familiar with the land. However, for the nascent visitor, it is an exhilarating experience; a beautiful romance with nature.

It transpires that the visitor cannot resist gazing through the window and picture every detail in his memory. So unremitting is nature’s beauty that it only ends in the mortality of his existence. 

One familiar sight though fails to catch the eye of both the local and the visitor. A sight which embellishes the playful nature and reminds us of our childhood days as we keep hanging on to it even after the sun bids farewell for the day.

We played in the playing fields, open spaces and agricultural lands depending on availability, immediately after school, sometimes with uniforms on. Parents didn’t care much if we entered home at dusk.

Holidays were literally holidays. We were fine examples of the famous adage, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We played and played, never knowing a Jack because to us the only thing dull was the ball, which was kicked and hit to all parts of the ground.

Playing was as fundamental a right as any during our childhood and student days – it was the Constitution. All other tasks were traded for another day or simply ignored, and running to the playground, assembling the team and having a go at the ball was what we loved, enjoyed and lived for.

The times have changed and how

There has been a reduction in number of children playing outdoors

Present day children, students or even elders might think of this as freakish, but that sure was freedom under the sky for us. We breathed and lived in a sports environment that churned out sportspersons and students of merit.

Government facilities except in Guwahati and a few other prominent towns were unheard of. Institutional sponsors were rare. The majority of us played not because we wanted to be sports figures, but because sports kept us happy and united.

In a transformation that belies logic, these days, the sight of children or students playing sports and games in the countryside is extremely rare. It has almost ceased to happen because sports and games are no more encouraged and cultivated.

To the connoisseur of sports in India, this wouldn’t seem strange because it took as many as 53 years after independence for the Ministry of Sports to be created! This gives us a very lucid idea as to how the country in general has viewed sports. And to think that in 1952 India hosted the first Asian Games!

Athletes are getting more attention now

Priyanka Chopra, Mary Kom and Darshan Kumaar during the promotions of Mary Kom

A brand called professional sports or career sports is trying to win over the psyche of the usually hysterical cricket fans of our country. The Indian Premier League has set the trend. Kabaddi, badminton, tennis, hockey and football have followed suit with their respective professional leagues.

Again, there are corporate sponsors like Mittal Trust and Tata Sports Foundation in archery, boxing, wrestling and shooting.

The Government too has chipped in with modern sports infrastructure, schemes and incentives. Professionalism has kicked in and discipline, hard-work and focus are a must in the handbook of professional sportsmen. Use of technology, availing the services of professional trainers and psychological counselling go hand in hand.

Now if they are successful, money fills their honeycombs and they have the insurance of the swelling honey to keep them going until the glory fades. India did remarkably well in the 2012 London Olympic Games and some of the Indian medal winners at London are household names and billboard icons. Their autobiographies form part of sports lovers’ book collection, and films on them have positioned their names as the Everest among Indians.

Television news channels, the social and print media keep our eyes and ears plugged for more. In this gradual ascendancy of sports as a money-spinner and fame earner, parents have sensed an opportunity to play with. In these whirlwind investments by parents and the pressure to perform on the budding talents, very few sportspersons make it, and a majority wither away.

The benefits matter a lot

In this tug-of-war, the weak are pinned to the pit and their lives become a punching bag for journalists, television anchors and laymen alike. The good, the bad and the ugly are part of competitive and professional sports and it is these factors, which we tend to ignore or overlook.

The truth is majority of the youth take up sports as a career with an ambition to earn fame, make money, be among elite company, enjoy the cushion of government job and live life thereafter to talk and write about their ‘Olympian’ exploits. The love and passion for the game they talked about when young is pushed into oblivion.

If a Commonwealth or Asian Games medal decorates their resume, they would have accomplished more than half of their ambition. This perspective to sports doesn’t bode well for the future especially when the GOI is embarking on a visionary road map for alleviating sports and games in all matters.

The trend of present governments, institutions and corporate sectors announcing hefty cash rewards to an Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth or World Championship medal winner, besides the Arjuna award or Khel Ratna to go with it, is addictive enough for youth to pursue sports. Most parents and elders see a goldmine opening up not knowing well if their protégé will come out shining or melt in the heat.

Are we encouraging the development of a healthy sports environment? Somehow, we are not evolving or progressing in the path to cementing an ideal and sound sports environment. The basic reason is that most people who are at the helm of sports federations and administration are not sportspersons themselves or are not attached to sports.

Politicians and businesspersons hold executive ranks in different sports federations. Honestly, how are sports going to gain? With the kind of influence these persons enjoy they can ensure inflow of funds but them promoting a strong, durable and exemplary sports environment, well, even a blind man will see nothing of these sort happening.     

Hosting the Olympics is not an easy task 

Thomas Bach with Narendra Modi

In this scenario, it is very important and necessary to inculcate a sports culture with the all-encompassing Olympic motto of faster, higher, stronger and with fairness of purpose. More recently, on 27th April 2015, Shri Narendra Modi after a discussion with the IOC, International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach opted out of the race for hosting the 2024 Olympic Games.

Incidentally, Bach is the only President of the IOC since the Games started in 1896 to have won a gold medal at the Olympics. A very wise and visionary decision considering the fact that voluminous amount of work is required to be done at the grassroots before the country is suitably placed to pitch for hosting the Olympics.

First, the country should develop a pool of sporting talent encompassing the Olympic disciplines and concentrate more on events where our sportsmen have excelled at the world level and promise medals at the Games. It is the successes of the sportspersons that matters most and this will enable us to emerge with a resounding statement that India has arrived at the world stage. Imagine the pride and the glory!

Hosting a magnum event like the Olympics calls for an integrated approach like alleviating the country’s sporting and civil infrastructure at par with the best in the world, smooth and technology driven transportation systems and a tourism industry that upholds the pride, history and tradition of the nation, bereft of scar and blemish.

Seniors should help juniors

Sachin Tendulkar can inspire a lot of young sportspersons

There are other aspects equally important but hospitality and honour are the duty and responsibility lying with all sections of Indians with or without government intervention. A sports culture borne out of a corruption free, dignified and chivalrous sports environment will keep the nation’s flag flying high and mighty.

Inculcating a sports environment with sports and games being an integral part of school and college curriculum and selecting the best talents for higher training will set the tone for a vibrant sports culture. Regular motivational talks by renowned athletes and sportspersons and sports psychologists in schools and colleges should provide that extra boost.

These emerging talents should be provided scholarships for a period until they achieve success at the international level. He should be bound with a lifelong contract with the government to offer his expertise and knowledge to the budding sports talent for free and offer useful suggestions to the government in devising plans and schemes for the continued expansion of sports and games.

Many constructive ideas can be converted into plans and programmes suitable to states and sportspersons but for a movement to permeate and transformation to take shape, people involved with sports should be honest and transparent in their thoughts and actions.

For the countryside to flourish with the beautiful sights of sports and games we, particularly the parents and elders, should maintain a beautiful mind and a youthful spirit. We can expect the landscape in the countryside to be filled with the sights and sounds of ‘faster, higher, stronger’ only if we take an active interest in developing a sporting mindset.

The seeds would have been laid then for a sports environment to grow and be held firm by the resilient, passionate and loyal sportspersons.

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