SATIRE: Ten sports which could win you an Olympic gold
As A.R. Rahman would let us know, there is a hero (read: athlete) within every Indian. Running behind elusive buses or in front of rabies-infected canines, rearranging one’s precious parts in choc-a-bloc public transport, wading home through torrential monsoons and evading treacherously placed potholes at the same time – I’m sure Michael Phelps would have preferred to spend the rest of his life in the Sahara Desert than try any of these. Hence there can be only one reason why we under-perform at the Olympics – the high-handedness of the powers-that-be.
The formative years of the modern Olympics was a bit like Chris Gayle batting to Akila Dananjya – you don’t know what’s coming your way but you just have to score. Hence we had events like hand tennis, swimming obstacle races and book cricket. Well, not quite the last one but more on that later. The point of all this was to advocate Coubertin’s ideal of competition – the struggle to win is more important than winning itself. Something that is testified by the Bhagavad Gita and Rohit Sharma.
Later on, the authorities felt that something needed to be done to make the games more winnable for the Western superpowers. So the fun and frolic went out and the drearier sports remained thus rendering the Olympics a breeding ground of perfection and a deathbed for flawed genius.
This article should make one realize the “golden” years we have missed out on, or rather, been deprived from. We take a look at ten plus one contenders (and three tall, dark and handsome horses) for the Olympic sport(s) which could have redefined Indian Olympic history.
Number 10: Talking about horses takes us to the long jump for horses in the 1900 Paris Olympics. Given our fascination for the equine population starting from Prithviraj Chauhan’s Chetak to Psy’s Gangnam Style we might have been able to upstage Extra Dry who won with a jump of around twenty feet. Although, had points been awarded for ridiculously bizarre nomenclature, he/she would have won hands down. To be precise, hooves down.
Number 9: From horses to dogs. At the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, twelve people turned up with sleds and dogs for an event called sled dog racing. We do not know if the Canadian winner Emile St. Godard or his dogs went up onto the podium but it is not as if mattered a lot. It would have been pretty interesting though if our Dharam Paaji had turned up for a stroll – the lake would not have been placid anymore.
Number 8: Still on our animal friends. If PETA had been around in early twentieth century Paris, they would have dropped their jaws and clothes in unison at the pigeon shooting event. In the most bloodied Olympic event of all time, three hundred pigeons were shot down as the Belgian Leon de Lunden took home a gold medal and twenty one birds for dinner. A heartless pastime but something Mohnish Behl (the unsuccessful assassin of “love birds” from Maine Pyar Kiya) would excel at.
Number 7: And one more. Well not quite. Eight years after the Paris bloodbath, the London Olympics introduced a running deer shooting competition. Thankfully, the “deer” were cardboard cuts. I can picturise Salman Khan (who did not shoot pigeons in Maine Pyar Kiya) licking his lips at the opportunity of making some (black) bucks out of this.
Number 6: More on shooting. The 1906 Intercalated Games do not count as the official Olympics but no Feroz Khan fan can not doff his hat to this. Half a century before Clint Eastwood came up with the Dollars trilogy, men were duelling with pistols for sport. The only damp squib in this gladiatorial combat – instead of shooting each other, participants would shoot at dummies in fancy frock coats with a “Shoot Me” bulls-eye sign in the middle. Disappointingly, there was no tomato ketchup to go with it.
Number 5: If there is one thing Indians regret, it is the inability to fly over jam-packed roads on the way to office. What if someone gave you a glider to do the same and a gold medal to go with it? Gliding was a demonstration sport in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and would have been an Olympic sport in Tokyo had the Olympics taken place in the first place. The only catch – the “glider” was a flimsy motor-less plane but then we Indians are used to driving cars without airbags, aren’t we?
Number 4: One of the most exhilarating sights of Hindi cinema is when the hero’s long-lost brother throws a rope out of the helicopter which the hero grabs in mid-air and shimmies up while the villain’s lair is reduced to shambles underneath. It is a pity that these heroes weren’t around before 1932 – the last time an official rope climbing event was held in the Olympics. In 1896, only two of the climbers summited – about one-third the number of times Akshay Kumar does it in each of his movies. Please do not try this at home however unless you want to end up with bruised kneecaps.
Number 3: If you are someone who threw your weight around in school, chances are that you were in your House Tug-of-War team on Sports Day. This tradition dates back to 500 B.C. but surely this can just not be an Olympic sport, right? Wrong. For six consecutive Olympics, clubs from both sides of the Atlantic huffed and puffed in their push or, to be technically correct, pull for victory. The parallels with classroom rivalry do not end there. In the 1908 London Olympics, after losing their bout, the visiting American team, in a typically Indian schoolboyish way, cried foul against the home team for wearing spiked boots. The British team beat them hollow a second time – this time without boots.
Number 2: If you have followed the Olympics between 1984 to 1992, chances are that you might have come across a solitary female floating about in a pool. You might have mistaken her to be a predecessor of Madhura Nagendra only to find out that the Olympic sport solo synchronized swimming was being held. The fact that “solo” can simultaneously be “synchronized” would be understandable only to the brothers-in-law of Savita Bhabhi who would account for about 47% of India’s Internet population. Or if you are eccentrically pedantic, you would say it was just the music. Either way, I believe this sport was the first, and till date, only exercise to release one’s pent up existential angst. No puns intended.
Number 1: In 1904 and 1932 the Olympics featured something called a swingers’ club. Before you start imagining, this was a mace decked up with festoons which one had to swing around one’s body and head in a rather complicated way. Now this is something which the Hanuman-worshipping pehelwans of India have been doing for centuries in the clay-pit akharas of the hinterland. But to do it on an empty stomach in the middle of the Great Depression, win a gold medal in front of 60,000 spectators and then swagger out and hitch-hike a ride home is altogether something else. And this is exactly what America’s George Ruth did.
Number 0: This is too good to be even Number 1. The organisers of the 1904 St. Louis Olympics were caught in a dilemma. On one hand was the civilized Western world; on the other were the primitive Pygmies and Patagonians. Sport had to do what society could not – let everyone compete. So, instead of allowing the tribes to participate in the Olympics, classic events such as spear throwing, rock throwing, greased pole climbing and mud fighting were introduced in an “alternate Olympics”. Thankfully, mud fighting these days is restricted only to the Lok Sabha.
Special Mention #1: Although the discipline of tumbling, which was a part of the 1932 Olympics, has death-defying moves such as “forward roll” and “standing up”, it fails to make it to the top ten simply because no one (apart from Rajnikanth) would be able to do a backflip with a double twist like the gold medallist Rowland Wolfe who was better known as, well, “Flip”.
Special Mention #2: Being an arty Bengali, I would love to include art (and its five disciplines: architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture) in this list. After all at least one of the five has made its presence felt at all Olympics between 1912 and 1952. The only reason I did not do so is because I could not imagine as to how one would have got a winners’ medal around that luxurious Santa Claus of Rabindranath Tagore.
Special Mention #3: Despite its presence at the 1900 Olympics , DLF-ing the Indian cricket team to the Olympics would be a Karbonn Kamaal catch only for sponsors and a huge Citi moment of failure for the spectators. We do not want to lose yet another multi-nation event when there are Leagues of Champions left to be conquered.