Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Should we celebrate Bindra’s win?

[‘Sports’ in this post excludes Cricket, ‘sportsmen’ excludes cricketers and ‘we’ includes yours truly]

I am a ‘proud’ Indian today, thanks to Abhinav Bindra. But then, am I?

India is the seventh largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. India has the world's twelfth largest economy at market exchange rates and the fourth largest in purchasing power. However, till now India did not have an individual Olympic gold medal to its credit.

But it all changed on August 11, 2008. India clinched its first ever individual Olympic gold medal in 108 years history of modern Olympic Games, when the 25-year-old, Abhinav Bindra, won the 10 meter air rifle event. A historic feat indeed! Probably facts changed, but did things really change?

Would this achievement, which has made a country of more than billion people proud, change India’s we-don’t-care-about-sports attitude? Does a country with so many claims to fame on other matters offer any support at all to sportsmen other than cricketers?

Do people who celebrate the incredible win and partied all night know the event for which Abhinav won the medal? A handful may know that it is shooting, but do they know that it was for the 10 meter air rifle?

More importantly, did they know about Abhinav before the Beijing Olympics? Did they consider him a medal prospect? Did they know that he almost won it in Athens Olympics four years ago? Did they know that he is also the first Indian to win a World Championship gold medal in Croatia in 2006? Did they know that he was a Commonwealth Games gold medalist in 2002?

Governments, sports authorities and private organizations have doled out prize monies and rewards to Bindra; including BCCI (shouldn’t they be funding Cricket or modernizing Cricket stadiums and Cricket training facilities?). But shouldn’t they have been funding him and other medal hopefuls earlier?

Bindra, whose family is well-off, has an MBA, runs his own company, and has extensive training facilities in his house at Chandigarh. Has he won all these events because he could manage his own training and expenses? Are other sportsmen who represent India able to afford good training? Are they able to ignore their means of livelihood for training?

How many stadiums in India can proudly host international events? If not many, do we have a roadmap to develop world class sporting facilities?

Do we have a policy for our sports in the country? Do we have a vision for India in terms of achievements in sporting events?

Do we have a professional mechanism of running sports in the country? Do we have a merit-based system of identifying sportsmen in the country?

Have people conducted protests outside the houses of people who run sports in the country after every dismal performance in Olympics, like the way they did when India lost in the Cricket World cup (a tournament for a sport played by some 10-12 countries and not followed by the World)? Do they burn effigies of sports minister, coaches and officials, like they do of Chappell, Ganguly and Dravid? Where does the Indian pride disappear during the Olympics?

Do children who know the strike rate of Sehwag to the second decimal, know when India won its last medal at Olympics? They know how often Formula 1 events are held and where but do they know how often, forget where, Olympics are held?

Lakshmi Mittal, one of the richest men in the world and the chairman of the world's largest steelmaker Arcelor Mittal, has set up a Mittal Champions Trust for $10 million to help support a few Indian athletes with an eye toward the 2012 Olympics since it is going to be held in London. Would he be willing to spend the money otherwise? Would any other corporate or wealthy individuals spend on the development of sports without any commercial interest?

How many of us know that the Commonwealth Games in 2010 is being hosted by India? India will be only the third developing nation to host the Commonwealth Games, after Jamaica in 1966 and Malaysia in 1998.

Questions remain and I am the first to admit that I am unaware of the answers myself. But I am courageous enough to admit it in a public forum. However is the Indian public, including you, willing to do so? Are we collectively willing to take the blame instead of pointing fingers at sports authorities, government officials, media, education system, etc? And then my friend, we will start finding answers to these questions.

So is there a need to celebrate Bindra’s win? Are we even entitled to do so? Have we, Indians, really achieved something or is it a ‘personal’ achievement of Bindra? More questions…

11 comments:

Gopakumar said...

You are dot on target salil.I think its time for some introspection for all indians.But the bottom line is "Better late than never".I hope this will change the outlook of indians towards other sporting events other than cricket.

Joseph said...

Since you've left India, you seem to have forgotten all about India. We do have a strong policy on Sports, defense and for that matter on all aspects : make that minister rich and hell with everyone else!

As ToI carried on the frontpage today his winning has nothing to do with any support from Indian authorities. He was rich and he could afford. Period. In Olympics you need to come under a flag and that happened to be Indian.

Salil said...

@Gopu:
Thank you for passing by.
I agree with you that we should look forward which is what I am also suggesting. 'Hoping' an event will automatically change things is probably only 'hope'.
Just for record, Norman Pritchard, won two individual silver medals in the same Olympics in 1900. Nothing seems to have changed in the last 108 years!

@Joseph:
My dear friend, there you are.
It was a grave misrepresentation on my part to have said that we dont have a policy when infact we have a strong one as you pointed out. I think my memory has started to fade since I became one year older last week.
Glad that media also shared the same view!

Sanjay Kalra said...

That's pretty deep Salil. I do think it also calls for introspection on part of indian parents who put academic achievement over everything else.

Vimal said...

Salil, I think you have made it point blank!!!

Its all politics that we have here and you know they spent a lot of money for "purchasing" an MP for in the Parliament and then make fool of the public who voted for them!!!!!!
Who has time to make a good sports policy and to tap studnets from their school days and train them to become an athlete or a sports person?

But then we can be proud about a Bindra who made an impression in the history of olympics.
Hats off to Mr. Bindra!!!!
Vande Matharam!!!

Salil said...

@Sanjay:
Thanks, you are spot on. The question is do parents let children take sports seriously other than as a pastime?

@Vimal:
Hey, nice to see you here.
Though I was point blank, Bindra wasn't that lucky. He had to hit bulls eye from a fair distance.
Let's keep poli'tricks' out of this, not even worth the discussion.
And dont take so much pride in 'his' achievement. As I said, we are not 'entitled' to.

Renu said...

How can the parents let their children take sports over acedmics, when there is guarantee of career in sports. Here the only sport that pays is Cricket and there is also lot of politics. Parents have the first worry about their livelihood unless they are parents of Bindra.
Till government takes active interect and brings a transparency in everything, nothing can be done.
I stll remember a report..when Sunil Dutt as a minister visited the few offices and camps for training...pathetic conditions were there---no hygiene in the kitchen, rats were running around,forget giving them nutritious food..though govt had sanctioned good money, no facilities for a good sleep, even when they travel no proper araangements are made in sleeper, forget about AC reservation.Mismangement and corruption is so rampant, it destroys eveything.

Salil said...

@Renu:
Thank you for your comment.
As I said in my post, I don’t any illusion of having answers to the problems our country faces on sports. All I have is questions and more questions.
Should career be guaranteed to take up sports? What about passion?
How come P T Ushas of the world achieved what they did without any guarantee of livelihood (fyi, she used to train barefoot on Kerala beaches)? What about all those athletes from poor countries with no training facilities and no money? What makes them leave the pursuit of livelihood to take up sport?
Isn’t Government supposed to a representation of the population? So if the population is not interested, how would the Government be?

Renu said...

Same here, so many questions on my mind with no answers. I feel very sad when Bindra who shoots in Olymic gets 1.5 crore and Inspector Mcsharma who shoots the terrorists and gives his life gets only 5 lakhs, going to write on this on my blog. what is more important? Do we have our priorities right?

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Cảm ơn bạn nhiều nhé.