India’s Olympic campaign has not exactly been something we could be very happy about so far. One after the other, the medal hopefuls have been failing to reach the podium.
The athletes left in the fray are under the scrutiny of the media and the larger-than-life social media spotlight — the pressure on them is something we can never imagine, forget understanding.
If those pressures weren’t enough, they now have Vijay Goel to add more to the mix. Goel is, arguably, the most active sports minister India has had for a long while. Albeit his activity revolves around chasing athletes to click selfies, and ticking off the Rio Olympics Committee the wrong way by inviting criticism and a warning.
Ever since Goel landed in Rio, he has been on a social media blitzkrieg, perhaps in a bid to promote himself as the one (and only one) official in the Indian entourage to feel for the athletes. But one wonders where his notion that hugging and clicking a picture with them would motivate them to push their limits for glory.
If pulling and clicking a picture with a visibly tired Vikas Krishan, after the boxer finished a hard-fought victory in the ring, was done in a bid to encourage him, then we don’t have to search any longer to find the reason why Indians are doing very badly at the Olympics.
And to make matters worse, there is a humiliating addition the long list of selfie stories. The minister, his entourage rather, has also been warned by the organising committee for their rude behaviour, threatening that they would take away his accreditation and privileges at the Olympic venue. This was done in reaction to him pushing through and entering “accredited areas at venues with unaccredited individuals”.
This issue, in all possibility, will be solved by political diplomacy. But what about the unauthorised intrusion into the personal space of our athletes.
Perhaps one of his “rude entourage” should sensitise Mr Minister that the priority for any athlete just after a competition is recovery, so that he or she recuperates from the injuries he or she may have suffered during the exertion and be ready for the next round.
The cooling down routine, as they call it, has a physical as well as a psychological side to it. That’s exactly the reason why certain rules are set for athlete interaction post matches, bouts or races.
But rules are for the common man, right?
Goel is not the first Indian politician whose presence in a sports venue has meant added physical distress for competing athletes. One remembers the plight of medal-winning wrestlers at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, who were forced to climb to the upper-most tier of the KD Jadhav Stadium, to get blessings from Rahul Gandhi, who was seated there. This was after they had finished their medal-round bouts.
So, unfortunate as it is, in all possibility Goel won’t be the last politician either as such intrusive behaviour is a set precedent ingrained into the sporting ethos of this country. Sad indeed!
(The views expressed are personal. The author tweets as @poetbelly.)