NRIs have few hopes from India at Beijing (Special)August 10th, 2008 - 9:21 am ICT by IANS
By Kul Bhushan
Sorry, no ‘golds’ for India, say a number of NRIs, but a couple of silver or bronze ones, at the most. A spot survey of NRIs shows how disappointed they are with India’s past Olympic performances and especially bitter about the country’s exclusion from the hockey event. “If India wins a medal, any medal, a national holiday should forthwith be declared,” says Rajan Jamnadass, a keen sportsman, from Nairobi, Kenya. “Realistically, India should bring home at least 20 medals,” says S.K Gupta from Melbourne.
Tony Singh from London says that a country of over one billion people now emerging as a world power should win at least a hundred medals, but that’s his heart and not his head speaking.
“It is very difficult to see Mahan Bharat winning any gold in these Olympics,” says Kersi Rustomji, an avid sports enthusiast living in Australia. “India is already knocked out of the one team game she was good at, hockey. She has no other team games nor has she fielded teams in any major events like swimming or athletics. India’s hopes in the few events that need only individual or a duo are also not likely to produce any gold.
“Perhaps the only hope may be in shooting and wrestling but even here gold is most unlikely. What is both amazing and puzzling is the fact that Bharat Mata, with all the millions of children she has, cannot produce world class athletes in all the events the Olympics have.”
Have the NRIs lost interest in the Olympic hockey tournament? “On the contrary,” Jamnadass says, “my interest in the games has heightened because of India’s absence in hockey. There is no way now that I can be embarrassed by their performance, or more accurately, non-performance!”
S.K Gupta from Melbourne thinks otherwise. “I would have preferred to see India leading in at least one sport. Without the flag-bearing hockey team, India’s contingent at Beijing is minuscule for a country of its size and importance.”
A popular radio broadcaster in Britain, Chaman Lal Chaman, who is hosting a phone-in programme on Beijing, said: “Since we have Punjabi listeners, all of them feel very strongly about India’s hockey disaster.
“After winning eight gold medals, India has sunk to this depth that it has failed even to qualify for Olympics. Some of our listeners are very proud of former NRI hockey captain Avtar Singh Sohal, who led the Kenya team for three Olympics. And we have plenty of British Asians playing top class hockey in Britain. But India has let us down.”
But will the absence of hockey in Beijing be made up by winning medals from other competitions in shooting, archery, wrestling, boxing and tennis? Shamlal Puri, a London-based journalist and author, says: “Not really. China is expected to overtake the US in Beijing as they have put in a massive effort.
“The amount of money, the quality of training and the single- minded dedication cannot be matched by India. Other Athens Olympic medal leaders like the US, Russia, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea and Britain have a strong tradition of encouraging all these sports right from primary school to university level and beyond, with huge budgets and benefits for the sportsmen, while sports in India just means cricket, both for cash and hero worship.
“Except for the eight gold medals in hockey, India has won few medals in other disciplines and no gold medals as a silver is the highest in other contests. Wrestler Khasaba Jadhav got a bronze in Helsinki, Leander Paes bagged a bronze at Atlanta, and women’s weightlifter Karnam Malleswari brought a bronze in Sydney and shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore was rewarded with a silver at Athens.
“So India, with ambitions to host the Olympics, has just four individual medals to show for its efforts at the four-yearly Games.”
Says Anil Madan from Boston: “It’s a matter of national pride to win Olympic medals to the point of governmental or quasi-governmental subsidies. Indian parents are not focussed on sports or competition in Olympics as being the road to success or security - medicine and IIT, are more likely to be emphasized.
“Indian schools have ‘organized’ sports like cricket, football, hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, and track and field. Some tennis is available but at a few courts, and no encouragement to play or practise. Those good at sports get a wee bit of instruction but mostly it was trial and hit or miss. The results are seen at the Olympics.”
A. Sharan has the last word. “Indian sports is a scam and a sham. No medals will come from these Olympics whereas the Chinese will create history by bagging the highest number of ‘golds’ while the Indian Communist party comrades will be pleased that the Chinese have done well.”
( Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has travelled to over 55 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at email@example.com)