It's been a month of celebrations and for the first time sportsmen other than cricketers have been flashed all across the media and welcomed home like all-conquering heroes. Abhinav Bindra, deservedly, is all over the newspapers. For a change, it is heartening to hear some home truths from an achiever, who is not afraid of telling us what he thinks of our system.
Bindra’s gold medal is, obviously, one of our most outstanding sporting successes, but on par with his achievement will be his candid, fearless expression of what he thinks of the administrators who run sports in the country.
When a man from the top says there is something rotten in our system, it should have the desired effect. But will it? Hopefully yes, but unlikely.
When nothing changes, despite all efforts, people do tend to become cynical, but hope does get rekindled when there are sportsmen like Bindra who are not afraid of speaking their mind.
This is in sad contrast to our pampered cricketing icons,who despite the money they make and the stardom they enjoy, are timidity personified.
They will suffer all the slings and arrows of a selfish, greedy establishment for fear of losing their place in the team and with that, the millions they make.
The only time our great cricketers speak on a public platform is when their sponsors want to advertise their wares. They interact with the media and talk grudgingly with them only to promote the brands they endorse.
The sportsman, other than a cricketer, is a different breed and has suffered in silence for decades now. No one listens to them, even if they want to say something.
No one wants to know why they can’t be world beaters. Suddenly, Beijing has changed all that and Bindra is the one who has become a powerful voice for Olympic sports in the country.
The moot question is, how long it will last? Once the euphoria of having won three medals dies down, I am afraid, we will be back to cricket.
Olympic sports lack the glamour we have created for cricket. It is an obsession and a habit, which will be difficult to shed. For want of better entertainment options, cricket has become a soap opera whose popularity will always be hard to match.
No matter how much the corporate world says that they will give equal importance to Olympic sports, in reality they can’t afford to do so. They are the same people who have invested millions in this “national obsession” and they won’t let us treat any other sport at par with cricket.
For all that to change, India will have to produce many more Bindras, Sushils and Vijenders. And the media will have to remain as enthused with nonglamour as they are at the moment.