Following India’s less than spectacular performance at the Rio Olympic Games, the prime minister’s announcement that a task force will be set up to draw up a comprehensive action plan for the next three Olympics is welcome news. Usually, India goes from hype ahead of the world’s biggest sports spectacle to mourning after it. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive shows that India is willing to look ahead and address issues rather than get stuck in review mode as usual. Rio is clearly a setback, considering that India had won three medals in Beijing followed by the six in London which enabled us to shed the tag of being a single-medal nation. The task force will announce the strategy for training, selection as well as infrastructure facilities. The action plan, which will also use inputs from foreign experts, is likely to take on board the points the sports ministry’s Rio review report will make. The comments after Rio, by experts as well as fans, show that India is no longer content with participation. But sports stalwarts have in one voice exhorted the authorities to draw up a specific plan, which should be long-term.
India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra, says the country should be clear about its sporting priorities if it wants to compete with the leading Olympic nations. Few doubt India’s potential in sport. The boxing medals in Beijing and London and wrestling medals in the last three Olympics show that Indian athletes can match the best in the world. And Saina Nehwal four years ago and now PV Sindhu have showed by winning medals that we are not behind the rest in terms of skill either, provided there is proper planning that helps the player to peak at the Games. This is where the government, which provides most of the funds for preparing athletes, needs to tighten its monitoring of how federations manage the show. It should not be swayed by unrealistic projections of success. The debacle of most of our athletic contingent is a case in point. Our men’s hockey team, which is supported through the year, also needs to raise its game a few more notches.
India needs infrastructure and experts, including top coaches at home, to provide cutting-edge support. The current planning methods leave a lot to chance, a word which has no place in either the Olympics or other mega sports events.