India At the Beijing Olympics 2008

For a nation of a billion plus people India is probably at the bottom of the pit when it comes to Olympic medal hopefuls. Every four years the story is the same or worse from the previous edition.

My earliest memories of the Olympics was watching the 1980 Moscow Olympics in a 45 minute special before a movie at the Strand theater. This was pre-color TV days in Bombay and although DD did show some snippets everyday it was black and white and grainy.  Narottam Puri, Anupam Ghulati and P.K. Bannerjee provided hours of hilarious comedy. They wouldve given Sidhu a tough fight, even when they were not trying to.

However 1984 was a complete turn around. The Olympics were in color, on TV and everyday. That was a big change. Carl Lewis winning all those events and the opening and closing ceremonies were something that come to mind immediately. P.T. Usha losing by a whisker was the Indian angle to those memories.

1988 was a little better with more coverage both in the press and on TV. I remember sitting with my friend Kayo in his house at 10 AM in the morning and listening to Radio Australia broadcasting live over Short Wave the finals of the 100 m which Ben Johnson won briefly before being disgraced. The 1988 Olympics were also my closest chance to actually witness an Olympics live, as my kaka and kaki, Keki and Gool were residing in Seoul and were there for a lot of the events. Alas, Standard X and ICSE year beckoned and all dreams remained just that.

The Olympics of 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 were more of the same. The last two were seen on TV in the USA. The coverage was wider and better alas always too late. Most of the results were known over the web before NBC showed it “live at prime time”. Really really stupid, thats all I can say.

The Olympics of 1992, do hold a special memory, albeit in 1997, when Mehernaaz (my sis) and me were backpacking in Europe and landed up in Barcelona and saw all the wonderful stadiums and could put memory to physical form.

I cannot forget the winter Olympics of 2002 and 20006, which were newbies to me. Living in India, we hardly ever see any coverage of them, however they are as exciting as the summer Olympics. The ice hockey final in 2006 in Torino Italy was a blast.

So this brings me to the title of today’s post, and some of the pessimism expressed at the start of this article. As a ratio of population to medals won we are the worst country in the world. And frankly there can be no more excuses. Athletes from war torn, civil war ridden, below poverty line countries come up trumps and we are nowhere on the scene.

Will this year be different? Most media predictions are that if we get a medal it will be either tennis or shooting. And even then we are talking about a few medals, in single digits. Why cant we become world champions in any sport. Even in cricket, we are not. Thank god its not in the Olympics, because we would go and screw up there too.

I am sure there are tomes written on the reasons why we are not good at sport and more tomes on what we can do to get it done.

My solutions are a little draconian so bear with me.

Select talented kids at as early an age as possible. Send them and their famiies to reside in countries that excel in particular sports: Ethiopia for long distance running, Russia for gymnastics, USA for track and field etc. Let them live there, study, train, grow up but represent our country in the Olympics. Provide them with all the financial support they need to excel and let them do it. Just make sure they are staying out of India. The whole f#$%^& system brings down whatever potential the athletes show. Let them be out of that system and hopefully in 2020 we will have a dozen or so medals. Till then, we are screwed.

You have a better plan? Voice your opinion here.