Should India Stop Participating In The Olympics - Online Article

Travelling to a modern Olympics brings with it certain guarantees.You will feel the exquisite pain of a rip-off (i.e. US$5 for a cup of watery beer at the Atlanta games).

You will be offered souvenir T-shirts whose bizarre designs suggest the artist is on performance-enhancing drugs.

You will yawn through an entire evening at an opening ceremony whose only memory comprises of calculating how many watery cups of beer you could have got for the millions the organisers wasted on it.

And one more thing. If you're an Indian at the Olympics be sure you will be asked that most infuriating of questions: "How come a country of one billion can't win Olympic medals?"

India's enormous population bewilders people, and so does its disproportionate lack of success at the Olympics.

In over 100 years, India has won just three individual medals. None gold. This makes little sense to the world. Stand in line, dudes, we haven't figured it out either.

One common tactic is to dismiss the questioner, to state the number is not really a billion, that if you calculate how many Indians are actually involved in organised sport, how many in rural areas are privy to synthetic tracks and trained coaches, then we're talking much smaller numbers.

It's a splendid argument. It also doesn't work. It's still more people than Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Bahamas, all of whom won gold at Sydney.

A more disarming reply surrounds inadequate facilities. At least it leaves the questioner uneasy and sympathetic. Except he might tell you about Kenyan runners of a generation ago who lived during training in an old school dormitory and had no running water but a tap outside to wash clothes.

'Not athletic'

Truth is, we have stadiums and astro turfs. It's just that, well, they could be in better shape. So fine, we lack high-quality scientific back-ups, yet in comparison to some African and Asian countries, we're privileged.

Of course, one might merely claim we're just not an athletic nation (thus slyly suggesting we're a cerebral one). An Indian tennis player told  years ago about going to America as a youngster and taking part in a community 5-kilometre run only to find himself overtaken by middle-aged women.

His point was the streets in the early morning were a study of a nation on the move. In India, he said, who jogged, or walked, except pot-bellied men like me trying to hold back the years? It's the culture, stupid.

Former soccer star Gordon Strachan said of his recent trip to Australia: "I went to a wee place called Coffs Harbour. It only has a 25,000 population but I sat there watching all these families gather on a Saturday morning for a triathlon weekend. Kids as young as 10 were doing the swimming and running.. all the way up to the full adult races. But it was all family orientated."

Wasted potential

Barring swollen cricket fields on Sunday, weekend outings for families in India are often restricted to watching Bollywood's Shah Rukh leap tall buildings.

What's galling, of course, is that India does have talent. Potential exists. But officials, who are world class at arranging junkets, are mostly unsure what to do with it. Imagine, we can write software for the world but can't form a coherent plan for our athletes.

A few days ago  a story of a former Indian Olympian approaching a legendary Dutchman to take on a hockey coaching job in the mid-1990s.

When the Olympian told Indian officials how much money the Dutchman wanted, negotiations stalled. Why, was his expertise not worth it? Nope, the Olympian was told the Dutchman's fee was more than what the Indian director general of sport earned and that could not be allowed, now could it?

How India will do at Athens is beyond even the expertise of tarot card readers. But its plight is best understood by a series of events over the past month.

What's galling, of course, is that India does have talent. Potential exists. But officials, who are world class at arranging junkets, are mostly unsure what to do with it. Imagine, we can write software for the world but can't form a coherent plan for our athletes.

A few days ago I was told a story of a former Indian Olympian approaching a legendary Dutchman to take on a hockey coaching job in the mid-1990s.

When the Olympian told Indian officials how much money the Dutchman wanted, negotiations stalled. Why, was his expertise not worth it? Nope, the Olympian was told the Dutchman's fee was more than what the Indian director general of sport earned and that could not be allowed, now could it?

Despite all this Indians are fighting and they should not stop participating in olympics.

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