Cartoon: India in London Olympics
Challenges are inevitable in life and facing them head-on is the best way to succeed. Some tests are simple and do not tax us much, others are arduous. Some bring small changes while others can shake up our life and put it on a new course.
The XIV Summer Games at London in 1948 presented the sporting world with one such defining moment.
The world was just recovering from World War II and participating in sports was the last thing on people’s minds. But the successful hosting of the Games by London (and the Winter Games by St Moritz, Switzerland the same year) proved that sports can apply balm to wounds caused by bloody conflicts.
Promoted as the “Austerity Games” and held on a shoestring budget, London 1948 was also crucial for India, as the country took it on as its first sporting challenge as an independent nation. India stood up to the task to win their first gold medal as a free country in men’s hockey.
Tough times ahead
Six decades later, London gets ready to host the Olympics once again even as major nations are facing an economic meltdown. As top leaders of the world try to steer their countries past recession, India too is battling economic slowdown, and sports — Olympics in particular — can be the much-needed succour in such troubled times.
Except for India’s triumph at the cricket World Cup, there were not many defining moments for Indian sports in 2011 — as compared to 2010. The London Olympics present our sportspersons with a chance to build on our success at the Beijing Olympics (one gold and two bronze), Delhi Commonwealth Games and Asian Games at Guangzhou.
Though three medals at the Olympics is too little for a country of over one billion, London provides us a chance to improve on the Beijing tally. India have made big strides in shooting, boxing, wrestling, archery and tennis, and London will be a chance for the likes of Gagan Narang, Abhinav Bindra, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes to win medals. The clock is ticking for some and London may be their last Olympics.
Sports bill conundrum
Indian sports waged some crucial battles in 2011 — none more important than the attempt to bring in a new legislation to improve administration of sports federations.
The sports ministry has proposed a law that promises to rescue federations from the clutches of powerful politicians and powerbrokers. The ministry’s attempts, coming after the Commonwealth Games scams have, as expected, run into roadblocks.
Sports minister, Ajay Maken, and the Sports Bill will face their Waterloo in 2012 when it is expected to come up before the Cabinet for clearance and Parliament for endorsement. If Maken wins, the Bill will change the face of Indian sports. The Bill’s defeat will ensure that status quo prevails.
Our next big challenge would be to free itself from the clutches of the ‘dope’ monster that bit seven athletes in 2011. The one-year ban handed to the six quartermilers reinforces India’s infamy as the country that tolerates doping and whose administrators do their utmost to save the cheats from strict punishment. India had suffered embarrassment on this front at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the challenge in 2012 would be to avoid any further humiliation. The government, federation and National Anti-Doping Agency need to put in place a stricter regimen to tackle the menace. Blaming a foreign expert is too simple a solution for a serious issue like doping!
Hockey’s berth pangs
Indian hockey will also be hoping for a revival. Having failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics and clinch a direct berth for London, the men’s team is forced to go through a winner-takes-all qualifying tournament once again. Failure to make it to the second successive Olympics would be a disaster that will set Indian hockey back by many years. Solving the governance issue would be another problem that would keep the stakeholders busy.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have come together seeking Olympic glory. They face the arduous task of winning a medal that has eluded Bhupathi and Leander Paes in three Olympics (Sydney, Athens and Beijing).
Failure is an opportunity to begin again, this time more wisely. The year is a chance to fulfil the promises made in 2010.