Every time we return after a dismal performance in the Olympics, we go through the same exercise. Olympic sports take centre stage and everyone, including the media, talks about it. But four years from now, this will happen again.
If we really want something positive to happen, then all stake-holders, the Indian Olympic Association, sports federations, Sports Authority of India and state governments must get serious about planning, and even more serious about implementation.
It’s not that India can’t produce Olympic medallists. In the last three Games --- Beijing, London and Rio --- we won 11 medals in four different disciplines. So, the medal is within our reach. But the main issue is we are yet to evolve a system on which we can depend to win medals.
Most of the medals we have won are due to the efforts of individuals who have come through systems developed by them. For example, in badminton we have two medals in two Games, and all credit goes to Pullela Gopichand. He has developed a system which is giving us results. When he can achieve this, why can’t we replicate such a system across the country?
The world over, a three-tier system is followed and we have to adopt this. In India too we have this, but it’s restricted to policies.
The first tier is quantity based. We have to attract more and more kids to the playground and provide them basic facilities. The next stage is about quality. We have to pick the best from the base and provide them better facilities in terms of coaching, infrastructure, equipment and scientific backup. The third stage is about super speciality, from where we will get our national players.
When I was Director of Sports, Punjab, I got a chance to study the sports policies of various states and countries. In China’s three-tier policy, they have a base of nine crore children. They pick nine lakh for the next stage and finally have 9,000 athletes to represent the country. We have to follow China’s model.
Like China, we have to put sports on a par with education. Calculated on the basis of time spent on the playing field, China gives 25 % weightage marks to those who progress to the second tier and 50 % to those who enter the final bracket. In India, especially the middle-class families are afraid of letting their kids pursue sports as a profession. The main reason is that they are worried that if their child fails to make it big in sports he or she won’t be left with options in terms of career. But by bringing sports on a par with education, they will get many options.
(The writer is an ex-India hockey skipper)