This is an eternal debate . A debate which I have been hearing since I started loving sports.
The question is very simple straightforward – Why India doesnt produce Gold Medalists for Olympics? Why India is only successful in cricket and hockey to some extent and not in other sports?
Ronojoy Sen, author of “Nation at Play” and a Senior Research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies and Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore and Abhinav Bindra ( who needs no introduction), discussed this as a part of Kolkata Literary Meet 2016 on the magical background of Victoria Memorial on a Sunday afternoon of 24th January, 2016. Joy Bhattacharya, Former Team director of KKR, a quiz master and an ardent sports fan moderated the panel .
Since independence in 1947, in India sports was never a high priority unlike China where it is a national pride, but considered more as a means of health and wellness. The only sports where India has excelled has been cricket and hockey to some extent. Abhinav Bindra rightly pointed out that Indians are better at skilled sports which involves hand eye coordination and we are more gifted towards them . The fact that India excelled at hockey when played on grass and slowly declined when Astro turf was introduced (which involves more power and stamina) proves this.
Involvement of Government officials and politicians have not helped the fact at all . As Mr. Bindra pointed out – time is of premium for the lead atheletes and if one financial grant gets stuck in red tapism of bureaucracy, then by the time the grant comes in, some golden opportunity is already lost. As per Bindra, Government and officials should not be involved in sports management at all. The different federations that we have today ( half of them are defunct though) must hire professional paid CEOs and the structure should be made like an professional organization, whereas again, the federations are reluctant to do the same to keep the power with themselves.
Success inspires success, success attracts money and success grows infrastructure and again success demands money and success needs infrastructure so its a cycle which needs one kick start. The fact that today we have seen sporadic growth of Chess grandmasters after Vishy Anand and Bindra competes with 4000 shooters in National Competition compared to 300 when he started off,substantiates this.
We often tend to blame the facilities but the fact that Europe has own 11 FiFa World Cup Football and Latin America has won 9 times shows that facility can only play a role to certain extent but not hugely. Joy pointed in his trademark style that when he was working on the Sports Bill along with Boria Mojumdar ( Cricket Historian), he wanted to keep the age limit for officials till 70, however a section of politicians only suggested that it should be kept at 95 !!!!
Ronojoy Sen read out a section from his book which is close to Kolkata and its set in 1911. When its 1911,and its Kolkata, it is a different nostalgia when Mohun Bagan Football Club, the first Indian Football club to win a major tournament by defeating the East Yorkshire regiment. Ronojoy’s book captures the essence in a great way, and small anecdotes like special trains were used to bring in supporters to field, flying kites to let people know the score, took the audience back to that era and relived the victory which was a corner stone in Indian sports.
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