Jun 1, 2012

The Olympic Quest [152/365]

Even as I write this, London is abuzz with activity putting the finishing touches to the greatest sporting extravaganza the world will ever see. Held every leap year, the Olympics has been the ultimate goal for any sportsperson worth his/her sweat.

Having lived abroad for a significant part of my life, I've seen athletes train hard and long just for that elusive Olympic gold.
Globally, nations have encouraged their citizens to choose a sport of their choice and actively groomed them. By catching them young, they achieve a level of perfection that we as Indians could never achieve.

I've wondered why as a nation of a billion and growing, can not produce competitive and successful sportspeople. What is the reason of our obsession with cricket? Why have we abandoned hockey? Why can't be groom children to be excellent in one sport?

Many argue that we have not produced sportspeople the way other nations have, because as a culture we tend to focus on academics more than we do on sports.
Somehow we are brought up to believe that sports can never secure our financial future. Not entirely untrue since many of our medalists are forgotten as soon as they are feted.
We are brought up to believe that a good degree is what will get us a secure job, a good spouse, and retirement benefits.
If you are not in the big league, you are just a statistic.
Training and competing in games that matter are never cheap and sponsorship is painful and slow. Politicians will only support you if you scratch their backs. Forget corporate sponsorship if you are not into cricket.

But thankfully, this is slowly changing. About time too.
Indian athletes and sportsperson are slowly getting the limelight they deserve. And it appears that we are excelling both in individual and team sports. Saina, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Virender, Abhinav and a dozen other sportspeople are bringing India much needed recognition and it appears we are finally being looked upon as a nation that can multi-task well.

We finally have individuals who are ranked in the top ten in their disciplines and no, its besides cricket.
What contributed to this is definitely not a change in the way we raise our children nor in the way our nation perceives our non-cricket playing sportspersons, but in the way that we have recieved training, support and funding.
Two of the most spectacular examples of how corporates are put their money where their mouths are is the Mittal Champions Trust (MCT) and the Olympic Gold Quest (OCQ).

Dismayed at how we have been performing in international events, corporates created a trust fund that took care of some of the most basic grouses of an athlete and their families. Be it the lack of infrastructure or financial support in times of any need, these Trusts have made a difference in the lives of sportspersons who would have otherwise struggled. And the results are there for everyone to see- this will be India's largest Olympic contingent in history.

Our athletes for the first time are better prepared and sufficiently equipped. Many of the individuals competing are exude confidence while being cautious not to appear cocky. Nearly all of them are safe in the knowledge that the Trusts have taken care of all of theirs and their families' needs.

With safe optimism, we can expect atleast a dozen medals in disciplines like Boxing, Shooting, Wrestling, Badminton, Tennis and Weight-lifting. While this is good for us as a nation, I can also see our politicians leverage any medal to their benefit.

All said, London is the place to be this July.
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