A Gold Medal Wakes Up A Billion People

This is in short the theme of a very balanced and uncannily accurate article in today’s New York Times.

Below are a couple of paragraphs that capture the “zeitgeist”.

On the streets of the nation’s capital, the mood was jubilant, and incredulous. “I couldn’t believe it,” said Malvika Singh Rana, a 24-year-old hardware engineer in central Delhi. At first when she heard Bindra had won a gold, “I thought he may be an non-resident Indian from Canada or United States,” she said. But when she realized he was truly an athlete from India, “I shouted, ‘Oh my God — an Indian has won the Olympic gold,’” she said.

“It really is a proud moment for us,” she said.

The Beijing Games were a minor event until Bindra’s victory. Olympic sponsorships are low-key here, advertising has been minimal and the government channel carrying the Games seems to be manned by announcers with little knowledge of sports.

On Sunday, Indian Olympic officials and athletes interviewed blamed the hand of fate for disappointing performances over the weekend.

What, exactly, has held India back from Olympic greatness is the stuff of much debate. Logic alone would dictate that with more than a billion people, about half of whom are under 25, India should have a pool of athletic talent to pull from that rivals China, the United States and Russia.

India also has a history rich in athletic performing arts like dance and tales of fierce battles that show an appreciation for physical prowess. Games that meld strength with skill, like polo, have been played for decades in India, and India invented its own physically challenging sports, like kabbadi, a sort of team wrestling. Still, India has traditionally excelled more at games that favor intellect over brawn and mass, like chess or Scrabble.

Read the entire article here.