Sigh. The Olympics are over.
After the grandiose Moulin Rouge style mash-up extravaganza that was served up in the closing ceremony (Jessie J performing with Queen? Really?), its time to reflect on India's participation in the games. But after 'liking' Facebook pictures of our medal winners of course :)
'Olympic Gold Quest' was one excellent program that has started reaping benefits after years of effort. This all-time high medal count should keep getting better through the games in 2014 and 2016 if only more and more corporate money flows in.
As a thriving democracy, we will never have the 'Olympic factories' that create medal winners in certain autocratic nations. I mean looking at the things they do and more, its just assuring that we are not them. Neither can we have the American/Australian model of Sports where it is tightly integrated into the University system. But better infra, improved training and better publicity will take us a long way from here. We don't need to remember Mary Kom or Sushil Kumar only every 2 or 4 years. They need media coverage and our constant support in all competitions. I mean, who even knew that the boxer lady was a 5 time world champion? Now that our wrestler hero has a few crores assured as prize money, it should encourage more talent coming into the games. He makes us proud, compared to another Sushil Kumar who is a disappointment to the offices he holds.
That said, our national sport definitely needs an overhaul. They face their own set of problems, but surely more is expected out of them. As the foreign coach put it (and it comes from a foreigner who sings the Indian national anthem, really!), many of our hockey players were merely happy being Olympians and with no fight to win. Last place in the Olympics in our national sport is a national embarrassment. On the other hand, Germany which won the hockey gold just got the job done with some sheer talent and discipline. And probably half the population in this football-crazy nation here didn't even bother to notice.
Our sportspersons need to be role models. And that will come if they give their best. I don't care if they endorse more brands of sugary aerated drinks and earn loads of money in the process.. The bottomline is - they must perform, and inspire generations to compete more.
We get it. We are not generally athletic and well-built as a race. We usually aren't half a mile tall like Phelps or Missy Franklin. We lack the endurance and stamina of the African-origin races. But certainly we should do great in areas requiring more skill - shooting, archery, badminton and table tennis (damn the Chinese!), right? Well, we did win in violent/combative areas like Wrestling, boxing, shooting et al. Gandhi would have been proud. :)
In the end, no sportsman who represents the country must EVER worry about how they would earn their livelihood when they stop competing. Ever.
But certainly we need loads of money channeled in more important places in society, right? Millions still need to be pulled out of poverty, sanitation facilities, water, electricity are the basic issues which need to be addressed first, right?
Yes, we need more money into infrastructure, but development of sports cannot be overlooked. The sense of collective pride that a nation gets through the victories is priceless, not to mention the added interests in sports and fitness that contribute to the overall health of the population.
To all our medal winners - you did great! A Silver and bronze is still one at the top, amongst the best of the best in the world. And sometimes the best ones too do not get their hands on that glittering metal.
Ask Federer and the Brazil football team.