How often have we heard that the Olympic Games are all about participation. Our sports administrators keep harping that there is more to the Olympic Movement than just winning medals. It’s almost as if this ‘legacy of participation’ is passed on from one generation of sports administrators to the other.
Even as the 55-member Indian contingent — and possibly an equal number of sports administrators and support staff — descends on Beijing for the quadrennial event, there’s just a faint hope that we’ll see someone on the podium.
We might get a fleeting glimpse of the turbaned Indian contingent dressed in the customary attire waving the Tricolour at the opening ceremony on Friday, but whether the national flag will flutter to the tune of the national anthem is in the realms of the unforeseen.
Even as the contingent was checking into the Games Village, came the news of lifter L Monika Devi testing positive for nandrolone. Such things are not new to us but what’s shocking is it’s monotonous regularity with many saying it’s on the rise. While the world tightens screws on the menace, the ignorance of Indian officials is putting the country at grave risk of being blacklisted.
The dope drama notwithstanding, there is hope from a handful of our sportspersons. Shooters, archers and boxers would strive to do India proud — even if they fall short of bagging medals. Past performance gives rise to hope that there is a potential medal-winner from amongst them. If the likes of Vijender Kumar, Akhil are expected to throw quite a few productive punches in the ring, we also have world champion shooters Manavjit Singh and Abhinav Bindra in the ranks. It’s extremely rare that India sends a world champion to the Olympic Games. This time around, there are two.
For Athens Olympic Games double-trap silver-medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, pressure is something he encounters every day in ranges all around the world. But given his none-too-impressive form of late, and coupled with the fact that both Manavjit and Abhinav have not been firing consistently, there are lurking doubts.
But did we expect the Army man to bring home a medal from Athens? Or did we even dream in the wildest of our fantasies that Manavjit and Bindra would come back from the World Championships in Zagreb (Croatia) with gold medals round their necks. So, why not back the three and the six other shooters who have qualified for the Games.
Or, for that matter, why shouldn’t we back a certain Dola Banerjee or a Mangal Singh Champia to do India proud in archery? After all, their personal bests are just two points adrift of the world record. For that matter, why not pin hopes on young Haryana boxer Akhil too, in his second Olympics.
The 54kg Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and Vijender Singh (75kg) have shown tremendous promise and the only thing needed now is that small bit of luck and a favourable draw.
Let’s also not discount the achievements of the deadly duo of Indian tennis Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. The world knows the magic they conjured in 1999 and at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha to win gold. We also saw in Doha how the then 19-year-old Sania Mirza, backed by the crowd, upset the applecart of quite a few opponents.
The charm of the Olympics is irresistible. Ask athletes how it feels to soak in that electrifying ambience, to compete against the world-renowned personalities and they’ll tell you, it’s once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A pity, it doesn’t rub off on the sports administrators. But, then, were they ever concerned about the sport they were governing or the sportspersons who gave them the right to travel to the Olympics?
Probably, it’ll have to be sportspersons who will have to change the system.