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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

August 8, 2008

5 rings of despair for Indian sports

On the eve of the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth, the Olympics, I am reminded of an incident that happened a while ago. It was the year 1986 and I clearly remember an incident that was reported and which transpired between the then Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Margaret Alva who was the sports minister . 

It was the Asian games and days had passed without India opening its gold medal tally in the event. A worried Rajiv called up to check on India’s progress in the event and  Margaret asked him to wait for events featuring PT Usha , the then reigning queen of track and the best medal prospect for the country. To this Rajiv reportedly snapped “If only Usha can get us gold medals, then why do we have to send so many?" India had sent over 400 and all it got was four gold medals. Usha had a hand in each of them. 

Much has been written and debated about the factors leading to India’s dismal performance in the International sporting arena, no point in repeating the cliched excuses like we are a cricket crazy nation, our sports infrastructure in not adequate, our sport bodies are politicized etc etc. 

Agreed, these are problems to be addressed but our cup of woes, by no stretch of imagination exceed that of Nigeria, Iran and Somalia which face much harsher political & economic conditions but perform better than India at this arena. Are their athlete’s hungrier for glory is one moot point?

A general rule of thumb has been that a country’s performance in such arena is proportional to its population & economic wealth while a more serious analysis will factor other important variables like past Olympic performance, whether the country was previously part of the former Soviet/communist bloc (including Cuba and China), and whether the country being a host nation or so.

A study done by PwC on these lines do not figure India among the top 30 countries that are expected to grab 82% of the medals in Beijing. In another interesting study SS Vasan has found parleys between sports performance at regional & international levels and going by India’s performance at Commonwealth games, they should perform far better in the Olympics than they actually are.

I was just curious to check out on how close we were to the elusive medals in the 57 best attempts (read athletes competing from India in Beijing) that we have cobbled up for this event . What has been their recent mean/modal performance values & how do they stack up against the best in Business? 

Sadly, SAI & the IOA websites were conspicuous by absence of such data and analysis. What you get to see is the usual stuff of their recognized federations and associations blah blah.. What I wanted to know was all about our best athletes/sportsmen? what they have achieved? How they have trained for this seminal event? What does their performance indicate to? I hope Mr.Kalmadi is listening to all this.

All said and done, what need to change at a fundamental level is a complete rethinking and a 360 degree change of mindset in the way we approach sports business. 

To conclude I am reminded of what Ed Smith had to say about sports in his book What Sports tells us about life,"Sports is a condensed version of life - only it matters less and comes up with better statistics".
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