All the world loves a winner and you can’t quarrel with the rewards that are raining on Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh.
Quite likely, in their private moments, these winners would be rejoicing at having been able to get their own back at an uncaring sports establishment and a government that has thrown them crumbs during their dog-day slog to the top. Now everyone is scrambling to get a piece of the action, even if that just means a me-too rush with the Arjuna Award, cash rewards and the killer moolah that comes in through product endorsements.
It’s a winner-take-all game and India has had very few winners, which makes it easy for all to reward them and ease their guilt over all that they haven’t done for sports over the years. Instead, states should do what Haryana has done: reward prominent losers too. It has announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to its own triumphant son from Bhiwani, Vijender Singh, who has won the first boxing medal for India. It is announced a cash award of Rs 25 lakh to Abhinav Bindra, gold medallist from a neighbouring state. Fair enough. And Rs 25 lakh to Delhi wrestler Sushil Kumar for his wrestling bronze.
But the surprise announcement is Haryana’s gift to quarterfinals losers in badminton and wrestling, Saina Nehwal and Yogeshwar Dutt. Each got Rs 25 lakh. That should go a long way to lift the spirits of those who came close to winning and who might well win the next time round.
This is not a mere gesture to assuage the sense of loss among failed contestants. It is important to spread the message that sport is not a winner-take-all vocation and you are left out in the cold if you don’t make it to the very top.
After all, a country has to have a culture of sport before medals start coming in. It took China three Oly-mpics to build up to its present crescendo. There has to be a pyramid of sportspersons vying for a medal, of whom the top few succeed. But there has to be something in it for the less successful, too. It shouldn’t be that either you are on the gravy train or spending your night in a railway wagon during a tournament as once happened to a state hockey team. That should change.