India with its 1.35 Billion residents, fast growing infrastructure and economy is heading ahead at a fast pace in many sectors such as space programs, defence and digitization. So why is it that despite all this India is not able to perform up to its mark in the Olympic games and gets ranked so low in the medal tally?
In Tokyo Olympics Mirabai Chanu won Silver Medal in Weightlifting (Women’s 49kg), the Indian Hockey Team bagged Bronze Medal in Men’s Hockey Tournament, PV Sindhu won Bronze Medal in Women’s Singles Badminton, Lovlina Borgohain secured Bronze Medal in Women’s Welterweight Boxing, Ravi Kum Dahiya won Silver Medal in Men’s 57 kg Wrestling, Bajrang Punia won Bronze Medal in Men’s Freestyle 65kg Wrestling, and Neeraj Chopra grabbed Gold Medal in Men’s Javelin Throw: 87.58 (First Gold Medalist from India in Olympics 2021 ). The Summer Tokyo Olympics 2020 was over on 8 August and India has performed its all-time best securing a total of 7 medals ( 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze). Until now, India has won an aggregate of 35 Medals since 1900 as 10 Golds, 10 Silver, and 15 Bronze Medals.
In this 2020 Olympic 127 athletes qualified from India, where team China and team USA were present with 406 and 613 players respectively.
But the question is why is the number of players representing India at the Olympic level low? And why even lesser athletes are able to emerge among the best?
Let’s try to analyze the reason behind all this and also try to answer the potential solution to fix this situation.
How can the tally be improved?
India participates in the Olympic games. There are many contenders for the medal. And the Indian contingent is also big. India sent a Contingent of 127 participants to the Tokyo Olympics 2021. But if we consider medals per head the second most populous nation of the world had not performed up to mark. India has won only 1 gold medal in the past 30 years. It was won by Abhinav Bindra in Men’s rifle 2008. And in this year Niraj Chopra has added to the count by winning gold in Men’s Javelin Throw. This is a very big question that a country as big as India has a few medalists. Before moving forward one thing that must be considered is that we are not at all trying to imply that Indian players are lacking in skills, motivation, desire or passion.
The Indian Cricket Team and the Hockey Team and the Football Team are among the best performers. Often Cricket and Hockey teams are considered the finest in the world. But besides this, there are many sports on which India needs to focus more.
Although India’s underperformance on the global sports platforms is the result of hundreds of forces. But there are some major issues which need to be addressed quickly.
Some of the major issues include absurd beliefs (As per the majority of Indian parents games and sports are not a priority. Children are constantly reminded to focus on studies instead because they believe sports cannot provide a safe career.), poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of recognition for sports other than cricket are big problems to be tackled. Gender inequality and stereotypes are major issues that are hindering women’s progress in sports.
Poverty is the most severe of all problems. Most sports require full and free-hearted dedication from the athlete but if there is a lack of prosperity and livelihood then sports cannot be the primary focus. Poverty compels sportsmen to leave sports and take up other livelihood means.
To prepare athletes for the Olympic level, modern facilities and infrastructure is required. India also needs to cultivate an ecosystem for Olympic level sports culture. Games and sports are still not given equal importance to academic studies. Physical education classes are considered unnecessary and hardly any time is allotted to them, which adds to the low performance of India on international level sports tournaments.
However, if sustained government support and recognition are provided along with a life long support plan, strong implementation and fundamentals can result in the slow degradation of the poor beliefs which will, in turn, improve India’s sports stature.
Adding to that corruption in the sports sector is yet another important hindrance in India.Reports of corruption in all major sports of India is a common rumor which ruins the careers of even the few athletes that have survived despite the challenges. Be it cricket, hockey, athletics, weight lifting or any other sports corruption has touched it all. Even the organization of regional or global events is faced with corruption. The 2010 Commonwealth Games Scandal is one such event.
Coming to the players’ performance some of the prominent Indian players like Saina Nehwal and Srikanth Kidambi Nath don’t seem to be in the form. After the wonderful performance of Dipa Karmakar securing her 4th position in the Rio Olympics India hasn’t been able to bring up another strong contender except for Pranati Nayak. The main reason here is the lack of modern infrastructure required for the preparation. Even Taekwondo is in a sorry state in India. We could not send even a single player to the Tokyo Olympics for Taekwondo except for Aruna Tanwar who will participate in Paralympics 2020.
Winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan says even though India is a big name in space programs and has a big number of billionaires it is still a poor nation in terms of per capita income if compared to China and the USA. He also says sports have never been the priority of the government in India.
Talking about the government allocated funds, the budget on sports promotion had increased from Rs 1400 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 2826 crore in 2019-20. Although this budget faced a decline for the term 2021-22 due to corvid-19 and went to Rs 2500 crore.
What should be done to improve India’s performance in sports?
It is important to actually implement rather than just make policy. The policy made for the encouragement of sports must reach the target beneficiaries.
National Sports Federations (NSFs) has also increased from 48 in 2016 to 58 this year. Every sport has a federation which, along with managing local and global sports events in the country, supervises the athlete and determines the quality. And because the Olympics is an international event, absence of a federation can become a barrier for the athlete who wants to represent the nation.
After the 2016 Rio Olympics Shooting has faced overhauling. National Rifle Association Of India (NRAI) after facing a lot of criticism formed a committee of four members to analyze the reasons for underperformance in the Rio Olympics. Due to this now India is achieving well in Shooting, now we are among the global rankers, we are winning the world cup in the shooting. Other government initiatives such as ‘Khelo India’ focuses on the science behind sports. In 2014 India launched a flagship program dedicated to the Olympics which is Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS). In the previous five years, it has achieved major success. It is managing 126 athletes and their respective teams. Many of them went on to represent India in Tokyo Olympics in the following sports: Archery, Boxing, Wrestling, Athletics, Table Tennis, Hockey and Para Sports.
Besides these India is in dire need of role models for the promotion of sports culture. We need to produce more and more role models in sports who will start a perpetual circle. They will serve as the inspiration to the local population which will in turn produce better sportsmen. We need to bring a cultural revolution in sports.