Showing posts with label Indian Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian Sports. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Getting the boot [346/365]

We should have seen this coming..
Over the past couple of years and under the tutelage of a very corrupt and distracted government, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was banned by its global authority- International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Reason: IOA conducted elections in an unfair manner that was against IOC's rules and regulations.
Doh!

With our penchant to hire Ministerial rejects and Tihar alumni, I admit I wasn't one bit surprised!
But just as we were starting to put up an incredible show at international sporting tracks, fields and courts, it looks like we've taken three steps behind. IOC's impatience with IOA and this ban serves to show how ingrained nepotism and corruption is in the subcontinent.
This ban effectively means India will not receive funding or support and Indian officials and sportspersons will not be able to represent India in the Games. While this could spell disaster to our preparation for Rio 2014, I definitely think we could use this break to fix our home.

The ignominy of accepting a medal under the flag of the respective international federation will mean that our athletes will not be eligible for the state largesse and the media adulation their Olympic peers get and would expect.
Naturally, this has upset those at the top of their game too.
While they have been vocal against the ban (and the government), most of them agree that this is the perhaps the best time to shake all the dead leaves off and start afresh. We need better administrators at the top, doing the right thing even when it does not matter. We need athletes who will never cheat nor take shortcuts. The work is cut out, our time begins now.


Incidentally, the Manmohan Singh government has been quietly reticent about all the brouhaha after having dodged the FDI bullet.

While our Olympians should really not bother themselves with this ban, and with the Olympics still a few years away, let's hope the IOA weathers this storm in the most honest way possible.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

You're Grounded! [263/365]

Revenge is a bitch.
About a month after they returned empty-handed, Hesh and Bopanna was handed a ban for the next two years. On the wrong side of 30 this ban has effectively ended Hesh national career.

Predictably, Hesh has protested. He claims that the nation got to hear only one side of the story and he was never given a chance to explain.
But honestly, Hesh, what did you expect?
We are a nation that has invented cruel ways of getting back at those who cross our paths. While I think this is a silly way to punish a national sporting hero, I do feel he deserved to be punished for the way he pulled the strings so close to the Oly.

When you're chosen to play for your country, it is expected that you set aside personal preferences, big and small, aside and play for the country. You're expected to be one big happy team. Protest if you should but think of the repercussions when you return. And when you're playing for your country, you play to win glory for your country and not for yourself. Hesh is a terrific pro-circuit player and having played at the top for many years, he commands the respect that he has been given.
However, Hesh erred greatly when he demanded to be paired with his choice of a partner in the doubles and made the AITA look like an idiot. After days of hectic negotiations, AITA finally gave in. He got his way and we were promised a medal. That was in the past. Today, Hesh's national career is virtually over. After holding the AITA in gunpoint in plain sight of the entire world, I'm feeling a profound sense of relief after he and his Oly doubles partner has been handed the ban. Bravo!

Pinching my ears..

Today, reading Hesh's 'side of the story' I'm reminded of the phrase 'The dog ate the food, bit the child and still wants to bark'.
He's going to sue AITA. He's complaining of 'dirty politics'. Dirty politics isn't really new but surprisingly, we didn't hear him complain when he was being rolled out the red carpet, did we?

If you ask me, Lee should have been banned too. He pulled his strings too but probably escaped the wrath only because he was smart enough to wait. Lee laid the bait and Hesh walked into it hook, line and sinker. Sania was the crab that strayed too close.

Hesh, shame on you, dude. You don't deserve to untie the straps of Girish!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Out of Charge [258/365]

Only team picture worth remembering... Source: cityhyd.info
So the buffet is over. The guests have had their fill, burped in approval and the confetti has been packed up to be reused next year.
Time to pay the dancers and the stage actors. Out comes the empty wallets.

Five years after it first started, the honeymoon is truly over.
Lalit Modi has exiled himself in 'our motherland' (England) and no one remembers Shashi Tharoor anymore.
As team franchisees wake up from their drunken stupors one after the other, they realize that they have just been bamboozled by a diminutive man in impeccable suit.

But then how can we blame businessmen who only wanted to entertain us? We were told not the judge them on the basis of the obscene amounts of money they were supposed to make. They were after-all business(wo)men and not philanthropists.

IPL was packaged and sold as recession-proof business assets that could give its owners rich returns in a third world economy. Everyone drooled.
5 years down, the Kochi Taskers are extinct, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals are neighter kings not royals, Delhi Daredevils are frightened of their own shadow, the owners of Bangalore's RoyalChallengers in deep shit and Sahara's Pune Warriors is looking at a divorce. Chances are none of these teams will ever find a suitor considering how nonviable the venture is.

The greatest sleight of hand, the Indian Premier League, was never a self-sustaining business model. The revenues of the team depended on the fortunes of the owners. While no one can deny that all the owners had seemingly bottomless wallets and the glamor to boot, no one really saw the recession coming when they signed up for multi-billion dollar 10 year contracts.

Today, as BCCI has terminated Deccan Chargers for violations of various codes, DCHL has dragged the BCCI to court in a start of what could be a marathon trial. DCHL had previously announced the sale of its team through newspapers, to be sold in an auction. They then rejected the only bid (for a whooping Rs 900 crores) they received from PVP Ventures because they could not accept the terms of the offer.

With six teams down, the IPL is an excellent example of what happens when sound business logic becomes a casualty.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Quick Silver [249/365]

Source: London 2012 Paralympics
After 28 years, we finally got it, and in style.

24 year old Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda, won India's first and only medal at the special Olympics this year.
Suffering from a leg impediment, he got the silver by jumping over the 1.74 mt mark. His story is quite a remarkable one too. Son of a daily wage laborer, he took up the sport only towards the end of his school. With no formal training, he was mentored by a local sportsman until he started winning medals at national and international events.

This win is extra special coming from a nation that is no lover of the differently-abled. His journey to the Olympic silver is an inspiring story of how willpower can help overcome seemingly impossible hurdles.

Girish is no sympathy-monger either. Having excelled at sports alongside abled-bodied athletes at his home State, he moved to Bangalore to pursue a career and train. While our government splurged millions on able-bodied athletes in return for 6 medals, Girish had to quit his job to focus on training just six months before the event.

If Girish managed to better his personal record and get an Olympic silver with just six months of training, imagine how he would have done with a year. While our six Summer Olympic medalists are still giving their interviews and making speeches, there are scores of Girishs' who are struggling to breathe.

Let's hope this Silver medal will truly inspire a generation and help alleviate him and his family above poverty for ever. Let's pray that he does not fall victim to apathy and that the medal does not get sold for provisions.


Saturday, September 01, 2012

No nation for handicaps [245/365]

We, Indians, will never learn a lesson even if it hits us in the face and spits in our finger bowls.
Case in point- Public apathy at the Special Olympics, London.

Wait! I thought the Olympics was over! Sure, and so is corruption.
While most of the civilized world treats its citizens, able bodied and otherwise, with fearful respect and enough opportunities, closer home our 'handicapped' are lucky if they get a PCO and a job in the diversity quota.

I read an article in the British tabloids of how officials of the Paralympic Commitee of India (PCI) have gifted themselves and their families an 'all expenses paid trip' across our motherland (London, for the uninitiated) while our special bodied sportspeople are left to rot or die trying at the stadiums. Well, if it is any consolation, they must be used to the public apathy that they get back home too.

While the six medalists from our Summer Olympics are still getting used to the fame and fattened cheques, it would take our paralympic contingent nothing short of a miracle to get a medal. While I won't blame the athletes for the dry run, this only proves how deep the rot is.

Clearly, this is no nation for the Special People in our lives.


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.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ga Ga Gagan [213/365]

Source: ForbesIndia
And India got her first medal.

Gagan Narang, 29 and India's sweetheart in a hurry, won a bronze in the men's 10 meter air rifle.
But for optimists who think this would be the start of deluge of Oly medals, our nation's medal rank will disappoint. We are already 25th in the list.

India's former sweetheart, Abhinav Bindra didnt make it. Armchair sportstars will have a field day ridiculing Abhinav but considering how close he came (Abhinav lost by a mere 4 points) I think he will make us proud again. Nonetheless, I think this is great news. From great falls, you rise again.

In other news, our hockey team went down fighting. Which is a welcome relief from the poor shows they have been putting in the past couple of Games.
Hesh and Bopanna are still in the reckoning but considering how unsportsmanlike the duo have been over the selection process, I doubt if they will get a medal. Ditto with Lee or Sania. Am I a raging pessimist? No. Sportspersons who bicker like petty kinder-garden kids over who they will play with cannot possibly have any character within themselves.
While we wait for a couple of more medals, considering the Law of Averages, I can confidently say that Indian sports have entered a bright new era where performance does matter.

Until the next medal, India will continue to fawn over it's newest sharp shooter.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Who's that girl? [209/365]

Source: itntalk.com
Today, as India proudly paraded 83 of her finest athletes, a lady in red stole the limelight.

What followed was anarchy.
The Indian Olympic chief was livid. The hosts fumbled. The athletes looked clueless and uninterested. For the first time, they were there for the medals and nothing else.
'Who's that girl?' We asked.
Pat came the answer, she was one of us.

In our own inimitable style, we wanted to know who gave her the authority to steal our moment. Her family fled their home as news-hungry journos thronged her home in Bangalore. Neighbors and just about anyone who knew her name lamented at how 'she became like this'. The allegations are earth-moving- 'She has embarrassed us in front of the world (sic)...'. Well, Mr Raja, rest assured that we have already done might well in the 'embarrassing ourselves' department since the past couple of years. Must I remind you of the mess called CWG?

But I ask. Why this fuss?
I mean, she did manage to add style and pizazz to the contingent. She looked smart and very cosmo! Ofcourse, she has been labelled 'over-excited' by a trigger happy media, but what the heck. She might even get a million dollar book deal in the next year and we'll pick another scapegoat soon.

So, until we get our first Oly gold or until the lady in red returns to Bangalore, whichever comes first, we will continue to ruminate on how 'this lady hogged all the limelight'.




Friday, June 01, 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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