Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rio! [225/365]

As the quadrennial sporting extravaganza wraps up today, India is patting herself on her back.
She got 6 medals (none of them gold, mind you) from 83 'world-class' athletes.

Time for some stock-taking.
The great States of America stood first with whooping 104 medals. 46 of them gold.
Our northern neighbor stood second with a distant 88 medals. 38 of them gold.
And the hosts stood third with a 65 medals.
This is where the plot thickens.
If you're looking for India in the tally, you'll need to take a deep dive into the medal abyss. On the upside, we proudly stand at the top of the list of countries that have not won a gold. The downside- We are 55th of 79 countries who won any medals at all.

Goldman Sachs predicted India would win 5 medals. Nice guess.
If any consolation, we won more medals than countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt and Finland. Lest you boast, we won less than countries like Uganda, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Jamiaca. It is not the per-capita income or the size of our population that gave the geniuses at Goldman Sachs the hint, but the fact that we as a society have no sports in our genes at all. Chess and Snooker, maybe.

Children are seldom encouraged to pick and excel at a sport of their choice. It's the parent's choice or the highway.
Schools and colleges rarely spot and breed athletic talent.
A voluptuous B grade tennis star gets more spotlight than an athlete who actually performs consistently at the top.
And once an athlete wins at international sporting events, they are poached with promises of money and mid-ranking government jobs. That's the final nail on their coffins. This is what our society aims to achieve. A cushy government job. Secured retirement benefits and fame that will spill over to a few generations.

Money is flushed into athletes who are well established instead of nurturing talent at the grassroots. The Abhinav Bindras and Leander Paes of our country don't need millions of rupees for training and equipment. The Irfan Kolothum Thodis of our country does. The national cricket team does not need billions of dollars in endorsements and training, our Hockey team does.

What this Games achieved was monumental.
We could pretend to believe that we deserved more than we won, but the truth is we surprised ourselves.
If we won, it is not because of the millions of tax payer rupees that the government squandered on choosing, training and feasting our athletes over the past year. But because how some of our top athletes were groomed by corporate trust funds that demanded results.
The fact that we won any medals is proof that we can achieve sporting excellence just as easily as we achieve academic excellence if we put our mind to it.

Rio 2016, here we come.

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