The euphoria around the three Indian medal winners in the Beijing Olympic Games has died down and for most of us this edition of the Games is over. But actually the curtain has come down on only one part of the Games. The second, and equally important, part — the 12-day Paralympic Games — began on Saturday. Now you will ask, where is the Indian contingent? It is there all right, one of the members is this year’s Arjuna awardee Farman Basha. But then who knows this? Worse, few seem to care.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) website does not even mention the Paralympic Games on its homepage. There are no links to any inside page either. And, come to think of it, the tagline for the Beijing Games is ‘One World One Dream’. I googled for some information on our athletes and got some patchy information, I flipped through the last few days of the newspapers, and came up with nothing much.
But our lack of interest is at sharp variance with the magnitude of the Paralympics. Consider the arrangements which have been made in Beijing for the athletes: 3,000 volunteers and a one-lakh strong security staff to service 4,000 athletes participating in 20 sport categories. The international airport and the metro stations in Beijing have constructed handrails with Braille signs and barrier-free toilets. Around 3,000 barrier-free buses and taxis will ply during the Games.
When such a world event is barely heard of here, it seems utopian to hope that money and support (read: sponsorship) will flow in. However, for the first time this year, a multinational natural resources company has come forward to support our athletes in Beijing. Compare this with how other countries treat their differently-abled athletes: both Britain and Canada apportion almost equal amounts of financing to their Olympic and Paralympic athletes. All athletes can participate in their health-insurance programme and are eligible for annual training stipends.
But why are we so surprised about this apathy in a country that hardly acknowledges sportsmanship even when it comes to the abled. As for the differently abled, they are a blind spot for us in all walks of life. The sporting arena is no different.