To get high on medals table, India should look the China way | india | Hindustan Times
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To get high on medals table, India should look the China way

india Updated: Dec 30, 2011 23:46 IST
Milkha Singh
Milkha Singh
Hindustan Times
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Once every four years, all cogs of India's sporting machinery start to roll in unison. There's a sudden burst of interest in non-cricket sport, and Olympic disciplines take centrestage. But as the Games draw to a close, the enthusiasm dies down.

This short-term approach has to be laid to rest if we aspire to become a sporting nation.

For any edition of the Olympic Games, we need to plan at least 10-12 years in advance. Some five years before the Beijing Olympics, I got an opportunity to visit the sports facilities in China along with my son Jeev.

There, at the academies and centres of excellence, athletes were training with the single-minded determination of leaving the US behind. Coaches were given a free hand to select trainees and teams were provided every facility they could possibly require. Needless to say, there was no escaping accountability for the results.

China did it in 2008. The most populous nation on the planet was perched on top of the medals tally.

In sheer numbers, India is not far behind. Sadly, it's the number of people I'm talking about, not medals.

Despite our current approach, we have somehow won a few medals over the last four Olympics. But the six medals that came our way between 1996 and 2008 happened only because of efforts put in by individual athletes.

There is no system in place for sure shot Olympic glory. And, unless we have it, we will be restricted to a handful of names and a couple of disciplines.

The Chinese model of nurturing and developing sportspersons is no secret, which is all the more reason why we need to adopt it, fast. The existing sports academies need to be improved in a way that even the young talent has access to world-class facilities. Coaches also need to be given freedom. Once that happens, I'm sure they won't mind being accountable.

We have the resources today, so why are we hesitating in passing them on to the players?

Federations' lax approach
Non-sportspersons, who run most federations, are as clueless about the sport they govern as they are about the athletes' requirements, and just cling on to their chairs for life. The current crop of administrators has nothing to do with the development of sports. Just look at hockey.

Both Hockey India and the Indian Hockey Federation claim to be guardians of the sport in the country, but they are the ones responsible for the state of hockey.

What's worse, there's a strong nexus that prevents outsiders, including former players, from entering the setup.

If I were to contest elections for any of these bodies, I'm sure I won't get a single vote!

When Margaret Alva was the sports minister, I was part of a committee, which recommended that no one should hold office of a national federation or the Indian Olympic Association for more than two terms. Nobody took it seriously then, and even today, the sports ministry is struggling to get the Sports Bill passed.

The head honchos of certain federations have been around for decades. Their record on the world stage, in terms of India's achievements, is there for all to see.

It's time for change.

(The writer is one of India's most acclaimed sprinters. He finished fourth in 400m at the 1960 Rome Olympics and was also the 400m champion in 1958 CWG and Asiad)