Our Olympians are just failing to make the cut | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Our Olympians are just failing to make the cut

In a country with a pitiable sports infrastructure, games should be more about players than the bureaucracy

editorials Updated: Aug 15, 2016 23:14 IST
The Indian contingent marches during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The Indian contingent marches during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.(PTI Photo)

Dipa Karmakar’s sparkling performance in gymnastics at the Rio Olympics, though she did not win a medal, stands out on a rather sad day for Indian sport. On Sunday both Saina Nehwal in badminton and Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in tennis crashed out of the games. And the Indian hockey team, which has been doing well for the past two years, having won gold at the Asian Games in 2014 and securing second place at the Champions Trophy this year, could not make it to the semi-final at the Olympics, which means India shall remain without a medal in hockey for 36 years.

Read | Rio 2016: Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar finishes fourth in vault final

But despite this, it is also possible to look at the brighter side of things. And it is that despite the dominance of officialdom in sport, some of our sport personalities have come at least close to winning medals. This year, along with the 118-member sporting contingent for Rio, about 21 officials from the Sports Authority of India and about 10 from the ministry concerned are at the Olympic venue. That is not all. Haryana’s sport minister and his entourage are also there to cheer the state’s sport personalities. This is nothing but regrettable.

Read | Rio 2016: PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth keep India’s medal hopes alive

One has only to recall how the standards of hockey in India declined precipitately after KPS Gill, who was then serving as Punjab director general of police, took over as president of the Indian Hockey Federation in 1994. Together with this, another IPS officer, of the West Bengal cadre, was appointed one of the federation’s vice-presidents. Though India won the gold at the Asian Games in 1998, hockey suffered with recurrent conflicts between the players and the federation. Tennis has grown largely through private initiative. In table tennis India has many gifted players who are just failing to make the cut, but not much notice has been taken of that.

Read | Hockey heartbreak in Rio: How and where India lost the plot

As it is, our sport infrastructure is pitiably weak. On top of that our cities are short of open spaces where young people can play and thus talent could be spotted. There are two ways of getting round this problem: First, by focusing on those games that require little by way of investment and space; and second, by ending the culture of remembering our sportspersons only at the time of the Olympics and Asian Games. They should not suffer at the hands of politicians and bureaucrats.