As our Olympic medalists arrived home to a rousing and heroic welcome post India’s most successful campaign at the London Olympics 2012, I was left with one question in my mind: How long will India remember their victory at the world’s biggest sports stage and how long will their joy last?
Six medals comprising of two silver and four bronze, thanks to Mary Kom (Boxing), Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling), Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang (Shooting), and Saina Nehwal (Badminton), have indeed brought joy to India’s 1.2 billion population.
But the question is, deep inside, are we really happy with just six medals considering smaller countries like Jamaica and Cuba had better medal haul than us; that with population over a billion, we could have won more medals?
Maybe we could have won more medals for sure.
But again, the fact is, we let down our Olympians often enough. Confused? Let us get to the facts and admit it.
lympics is the world’s biggest sports event held once in four years where all the best sportspersons and athletes of the world come together for a fortnight to compete with each other. It is an international event where records are broken, new ones made and in the process, legends of the games are created. And these players prepare for years with their sponsors and government supporting them in all aspects – finance, facilities, equipments, etc.
However, in India, we think of our Olympians only during the Olympic Games and for the rest three years, eleven months, it’s all about ‘Cricket’. How many of us are aware that the Nehru Cup 2012 (football), an international football event that India won back to back in 2007 and 2009, is all set to begin from August 22 at the Nehru Stadium here in the national capital?
We Indians have become so obsessed with cricket that we forget every other game in the country. Cricket is a game played by about 10 countries and followed by just about a billion people, thanks to India again. It is a game not included in the Olympics, the world’s biggest sports event. Yet, we spend sleepless nights thinking if India would win the World Cup or not, or if your favourite team in the IPL will make it to the finals.
In all our love and craziness for the game of cricket, we forget the likes of other games such as hockey (our national game), football, shooting, wrestling, swimming and boxing. Or for that matter chess, where India is represented by Viswanathan Anand, a five-time world champion.
At the moment, rewards in terms of cash and kindness are pouring in for the Olympic medalists. But wait and watch. As soon as the T20 World Cup begins in Sri Lanka, we Indians will be back to our basic instinct, cheering once again for cricket and for the next four years.
MC Mary Kom has been hailed as the most marketable athlete in India by Forbes Magazine. So true for the status that she has achieved at the international level but where are the sponsors, the brands and the money? She has yet to receive the land promised by the state government for her academy and yet, no one cares. But when it is comes to cricket, money just flows in. She had to wait for a fifth World Championship gold to be awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award whereas a practically new Dhoni was given the award just after a single World Cup win. How ridiculous!
It is not just the fate of Mary Kom but every Olympian in India. After Olympics are over, we don’t even talk about them (Olympians), we don’t discuss them, media doesn’t report about them, nor do we want to read about them. In short, we don’t care about them and don’t wish to remember them. Period.
Every Olympian, be it Sushil Kumar, Gagan Narang or Yogeshwar Dutt, are back to their hometown, will be heroes for few days and that’s the end of it. We will not remember them till the next Olympics.
It is disheartening to know that not many of our Olympians had the best of facilities for preparation for Olympics, and yet, when they failed to win a medal, we tend to criticize them. Hypocrites we are.
Four years ago, when the national hockey team failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics 2008, a national newspaper called it a ‘National Shame’. What the team really needed then was our support and not be treated or termed as a national shame? Cricket needs no qualification because there are hardly any countries playing it. Moreover, we are not the number one team even amongst the barely 10 countries that play it. Yet, we think of it highly and ignore other sports.
We talk of Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar for giving over two decades of his life to the game of cricket and bringing glory and honour to the country. How about the same for V Anand who has won five World Championships in chess against Sachin’s one World Cup? Surely, Anand has brought the same amount of honour and glory to the country, perhaps even more.
That’s how we ignore and let down our sportsmen, especially the Olympians. In short, we do not support them at all.
Wrestling silver medalist Sushil Kumar’s belief that India could win 15 medals in the next Olympics at Rio in 2016 may turn out to be just a dream if we do not start supporting them right away. Mary Kom, the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in boxing, hopes that she would perform better in Rio and win gold.
However, the dreams and aspirations of our Olympians and that of the country for more medals can become a reality only if we start supporting them right away. That sponsors and government should provide them with the best of facilities, equipment including finance for training and preparation; that every Olympic aspirant is provided with the best to achieve their target. Perhaps then, the medal tally at the Olympics in Rio will increase.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)