|Mary Kom after making India proud at London Olympic 2012|
London hosted the Summer Olympics 2012, its third time. A gala sports festival that brought more than 10000 athletes together from 204 participating countries was a huge success. The first organized Olympics under IOC were held at Athens in the year 1896 with 241 athletes from 14 nations. This game has truly become symbolic in nature to bring all the nations together on a single platform!
The games was widely covered and broadcasted all over the globe. Two days before the game started, there was one television program broadcasted featuring the Indian athletes who won Olympics medal previously. The anchor asked a question to rap up the show, “How many medals will India win?”, to all the panelists. I instantly thought 18-20 medals should be decent. Every panelist put the numbers between 5-6 medals. Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who won a silver medal for India in shooting in 2004 said, “In Beijing 2008 games we won 3. So anything more than that would mean progressive.” I thought for a moment that these players were too conservative. They were so under estimating the Indian athletes.
Sushil Kumar, champion wrestler led the Indian contingent in opening ceremony. The games started and people followed the proceedings with great enthusiasm. Indian athletes received huge support from the mass back home. There was initial disappoint as few medals were expected from Archery team. In Tennis, the legends Leander, Bhupati and Sania who made maximum noise before the game started, were all out. Personally, they should be banned from representing India in any games, since they have their personal egos higher than teaming together and playing for the nation.
The first good news came with Gagan Narang winning Bronze in 10-meter air rifle event. Vijay Kumar, serving as Subedar in Indian army, won second medal for India, silver in men’s 25-meter rapid pistol fire. He became popular in every house overnight. He has a credible track record of winning medals but still had low profile and was never considered a favorite for winning an Olympic medal. Saina Nehwal won Bronze in Badminton, first medal in the sports of Badminton for India. Her victory over Chinese counterparts reflected her strength, determination, preparation and hard work. Chinese players rule the sport and defeating them in their game shows huge mental strength. This will surely inspire many ‘in-the-making’ athletes.
Mary Kom has emerged as a source of inspiration in herself. The five times World Champion tried to hide her interest in Boxing initially, since it was not appreciated for a woman to play boxing by her family. And as they say, the rest is history. Originally, she plays in flyweight category (46-48 Kgs) but was forced to put on weight and participate in 51 kg category. The Olympic committee decided to have women boxing event only in three different weight categories, 51Kg being the lowest. This meant competing with already established players in 51Kg category, heavier opponents with punches coming much faster impacting much more than she was used to. Her coach was not allowed to join her in Olympic village since he did not have mandatory 3 star certificates as prescribed by international body. Against all odds she won a bronze medal and apologized the countrymen for not winning a Gold. What an inspiration she is!
Yogeshwar Dutt fought with his injuries and operations and landed on the podium at third sport. A legend in my view – fighting all odds. Sushil Kumar was always considered a favorite for making India proud by winning medal. Again as a truly optimistic Indian, nothing less than a Gold was expected. And he almost had it but for the last moment dehydration and tiredness. But a true champion stays against all odds. Take a bow!
India participated in London Summer Olympics 2012 with biggest ever Indian contingent, 83 athletes to compete in 13 sports. They won only 6 medals put together making the television panelists so correct and connected with ground realities. India ranked 55th in medal tally, with no Gold medal. Countries like Ethiopia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Tunisia, etc. rank ahead of India in medal tally. Few of the countries ahead of India appear minuscule on the world map with even less population.
It raises lot of questions for India as country. About the lack of infrastructure, lack of financial support to athletes and training institutes, lack of recognition. A child is forced to become an engineer, doctor, CA or do business. Few parents encourage kids to take sports as a profession. The scenario should change with a leap of faith. If the government cannot do more than what it is doing right now, private business houses should come forward and adopt sports – right from building infrastructure, training institute, coaches and athletes. Cricket does not need any money and IPL can stand on its own. Official leagues should be started for sports like Hockey and Football. It might take time, some 20 years or so to show the true colours but then it has to start somewhere in the first place. It can be planned and executed over a long term. Government can give tax benefits for all the investments done by corporate houses in the area of sports. We should have pool of Gagan Narangs, Mary Koms and Sushil Kumars. Sports should be promoted as a serious profession with assured regular income from sponsoring Government/ private agencies and companies to the athletes. Athletes should also be given suitable jobs once they are off their highs!
fOoD fOr ThOuGhT: Blood boils to see India at such a low position in medals tally. Corporates should come forward whole-heartedly and adopt one sport each and build end-to-end infrastructure. Government should support by giving incentives and tax benefits to corporate houses. To see India at a respectable position in medals tally, someday, we need more of Saina Nehwals, Sushil Kumars, Mary Koms and less of Paes-Bhupati kind of players.