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Rio Olympics again proves sports is one of India's unifying agents

Sports has again become the unifying force, crossing all class and creeds.

Feature 11 Aug 2016, 22:42 IST
Indian fans
Whether it be Cricket, Football or the Olympics, sports has the power to bring every Indian together

“Bair Badhate Mazjid Mandir, Mel Karati Madhushala” - Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Above is a line from famous poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem Madhushala. The gist of this line is that religion & caste divides people whereas house of wine unites them. If we look at the current scenario, caste, culture & religion are threatening to divide the people of my beloved India. Listening to the debates of few politicians & journalists on prime time news, one begins to wonder if our country is indeed in dire straits. 

One of the most loved presidents of India, Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam had called for the media to focus more on positive news. Sadly the media didn’t pay heed to his advice. Talking about positive news, I have been thinking that in these media-created-tough-times what is that one thing that unites mother India. 

Sports unifies India

And I found my answer miles away in Rio. The Olympic games going on in Rio gave me the belief that there exists at least one thing (among many others) that unites our country and that one thing is sports

Leaving apart the golden era in Hockey; historically, our nation hasn't enjoyed much success in the Olympic games. But this dearth of Olympic medals did not let down the countrymen from lending their support to the 119-member Indian contingent in Rio Olympics 2016. 

Yes, there have been few pseudo-intellectuals who have criticised the athletes and their performances. But such instances have been few and far in between. By and large, the entire nation has come out in support of our athletes. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led this support brigade when he requested the Indians to come out in support of the Olympians in Rio. 

Famous personalities have come out in support of our athletes

Even sportsperson from non-Olympic sports or other famous personalities have given a thumbs up to our athletes. Take the case of former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, a person who himself in his hay-days was a big unifying factor for the nation. He is currently in Rio with the team and has left no stones unturned in ensuring support for our Olympians that they truly deserve. 

People from the fifth estate are not to be left behind in rendering support to our sporting heroes. When one of the country’s all-time great olympian and the only person to get an Olympics gold medal in an individual event, shooter Abhinav Bindra came 4th in the 10m air rifle contest; he was not criticised. Taking a stark departure from routine, the Indian media praised Bindra even though he missed out on a medal in what will be his last Olympics. 

Indians have supported their athletes despite having little knowledge about the different Olympic sports

The best part about this support has been that people are not supporting a shooter, a weightlifter or an archer. The support for these athletes has been irrespective of the sport that they are playing. I am sure an average Indian supporter will not know the nuances of most of these Olympic sports. But this has not deterred them from supporting their fellow countrymen. And if this is not an example of national unity, I don’t know what would be one. 

Players should enjoy every moment of this support

I hope the athletes enjoy every moment of this support, as they say, “Make hay while the sun shines”. For you never know once the sun sets down in Rio on August 22nd, it may be back to square one. You may have news channels running hour-long programs to show how the athletes let the nation down with the support of few pseudo-intellectuals. 

Even the athletes who will win the medals may have to fight it out to get the promised bungalows or lands from the government. So, in these couple of weeks when the game is on they should bask in the glory of being a selected one amongst 1.25 billion Indians. 

Putting aside the speculation of the future and given the strong support for our players, I am certain that all the Indians will be equally proud when an Indian wins a gold medal and our national anthem is played. 

This unprecedented support has been heartening for a sports lover like me and if Mr Harivanshrai Bachhan would have been alive today; he would have written -

“Bair Badhate Mazjid Mandir, Mel Karati Kridashala” (Mosques & temples create differences, but sports unites people)

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