Why India fails to win Olympic medals (Comment)

October 2nd, 2008 - 11:26 am ICT by IANS  

At the Olympics, India had been known as hockey champions, though the last hockey gold was a devalued one, coming in 1980 when the western bloc of nations boycotted the Moscow Games. Since then there had been a gradual decline, resulting in India failing to even qualify for the first time in 80 years for the Olympics in Beijing.For the first time we won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 10 metre shooting which does not require any physical fitness.

If we analyse the reason for our failure, the glaring fact is we are the most physically unfit people in the world, and International Sport require a high level of physical fitness. The reasons are all too evident.

We are the laziest people in the world. We hate to do any physical work. In our home we have servants or helpers to do our cleaning, washing, cooking and all other domestic chores. We do not go to work walking even if it is close by. We do not drive our own cars. We do not even go to the nearby market or shopping centre walking, but use a vehicle.

Our children do not do any physical work at home. The rich have servants and the poor have parents. In schools we have no sports or physical activity for children. There are no playfields in most of the schools and sports activity is not compulsory. Our children eat junk food and become lazy without any physical activity and finally become overweight and many of them develop diseases and disabilities.

Sports in our life is watching cricket matches on TV for 24 hours as innumerable channels dish out cricket matches live or running tapes of old games describing them as the best-ever. Cricket players are treated as demigods. The corporate world sells their products through ads by cricketers. Front-page sports headlines in newspapers are only on cricket. Politicians, film stars, journalists describe cricket as our religion and (Sachin) Tendulkar as god. The whole nation is in love with cricket as we think it is the greatest game on earth.

Come to think of it, cricket is played among 10 countries, all former British colonies. In comparison football is played by 210 countries and requires the highest level of physical fitness which we do not possess. We do not know that cricket requires the least physical fitness and many overweight, unfit players continue to play for the country.

Test matches do not require very high levels of fitness and one-day matches also do not require much fitness. The new T-20 cricket is a 120-balls game shared by 11 batsmen and 5 bowlers and with regular breaks do not require any physical fitness. Our youth is naturally attracted to cricket as it is an effortless sport. Without much effort players earn millions of dollars. We only see cricket, talk cricket and dream cricket.

We do not see what is happening elsewhere in the world and how sports are getting a boost. No wonder we are not good enough to win medals in international sports. If we want to win we must change our mindset and go along with the rest of the world. We must change our lifestyle and involve in more physical activity even in our domestic life, social life and in our professional work.

Our children must learn to do their own work and must be encouraged to walk and run. In schools there should be physical activity. Sports must be a compulsory subject. A student should be allowed to choose his sport and he must get expert training. Sports must be treated at par with academic subjects.

All educational institutions, including those in villages, must have play fields and sports facilities. If we start now, we will be able to win medals in Olympics in 20 years’ time.

Finally, we need to change our mindset and look and learn from countries like Jamaica, Ethiopia and Kenya.

(Ashish Roy, 76, is India’s oldest marathon runner. He can be contacted at ashisroy32@yahoo.com)

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