|Gold for spirit|
|Saturday, 20 August 2016 17:01|
Indian sports making it in spite of measly govt support
Despite PV Sindhu’s outstanding performance, India is fast hurtling towards a thinner medal haul than in its past two outings. While some will put the blame for this on the performance of the athletes themselves, there is growing recognition of the fact that the 117 Indian sportspersons in Rio have shrugged challenges that include poor support from the government to get there. To be sure, the sports infrastructure situation today is a far cry from, say, the 1972 Munich Olympics, when Sriram Singh, a middle-distance runner, ran on a synthetic track for the first time in his life and still managed to clock a better time than the record-time set by the Burmese runner who had beaten him to the gold at the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games. Government-administered sports facilities have improved over the decades and some top-class private sports academies have also come up to train sportspersons who are representing India internationally—Sindhu and former world no.1 Saina Nehwal have both trained at the Gopichand Badminton Academy.
At the same time, India’s spending on sports is nowhere near that of the developed countries. For instance, as per a BBC analysis, the UK increased its spending on Olympic sports from £70 million in the run-up to the 2004 Games at Athens, where it won a total of 30 medals, to £264 million by the 2012 London Games, where it won 65 medals. The US Olympics Committee alone shelled out more than $232 million to help American athletes win 110 medals at the Beijing Games; if you include the funding from sponsors and donors, the total investment would be much larger. Even tiny Jamaica, a poorer economy than India, has sent the fastest man and woman to the Rio Games and has a better medals-showing, having invested heavily on organised and informal training facilities for athletes. The fact is the top-end of the medal tally figures mostly those who spend better on sports, including the likes of Russia and China. In contrast, though India has improved its Olympic budget to R125 crore (roughly $18.75 million) at Rio from R15 crore or so earlier, it remains niggardly.
What makes things worse is a ponderous and corrupt sports administration and outdated sports policy that brings back memories of the biopic Mary Kom. Neither the Indian contingent’s chief medical officer nor the doctor assisting him specialise in sports medicine; and Dipa Karmakar, who missed a gymnastics bronze by a whisker, was not allowed to have her physiotherapist accompany her. He was only flown in after the IOA realised Karmakar stood at the brink of winning a medal. Dutee Chand, the third Indian woman ever to qualify for an Olympic sprint event, had to fly 36 hours in a cramped economy class ticket while officials flew business class. The stories go on … an eight-member team from Haryana, headed by the state sports minister, flew down to Rio—spending R1 crore of taxpayer money—“to encourage the Haryana players and look into the particular issues they faced in Rio” but sadly missed the key events featuring Haryanvi athletes; they did get to see most of the sights in Rio, including its famous beach, though. In the immediate afterglow of the Olympics, the sponsorships will pour in, but after a while it will be back to Dipa-who?