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Still zero miles per hour

Abhinav Bindra came home the toast of a nation. The articulate man spoke freely, held nothing back and pointed out how Indian sports is run by people completely lacking in professionalism. Instead of embracing his views and trying to learn from them, those running our federations labeled him an ingrate, Sukhwant Basra reports.

other Updated: Aug 11, 2009 00:20 IST
Sukhwant Basra

It was the tiny pinprick of an air gun pellet a year ago that breached the final frontier. It was a pinprick that should have burst a dam.

Abhinav Bindra came home the toast of a nation. The articulate man spoke freely, held nothing back and pointed out how Indian sports is run by people completely lacking in professionalism. Instead of embracing his views and trying to learn from them, those running our federations labeled him an ingrate.

Sports minister MS Gill was right there posing for pictures the minute Bindra came out with his medal but apart from making the right noises, no one has bothered to initiate any concrete measures to fix the ills that the golden man highlighted.

In fact, one of the first things that happened when Gill took over was the scuttling of Mani Shankar Aiyer’s path-breaking document on revamping Indian sport. The policy may not have been entirely practical but it did have nuggets that just needed the polish of a framework to make them shine.

Proposals like the National Sports Grid extending all the way from the village panchayat to international competition and the proposed Sports Regulatory Body were good ideas that never grew beyond paper.

A year since our best showing in an Olympics the Union sports budget has been upped by Rs 1480 crore to Rs 3073 crore and yet, the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, does not even have rudimentary facilities like an ice bath – a basic tool to recover after strenuous training. The gymnasium – modern sport’s most essential building block – continues to have largely uni-directional training machines developed more for body building instead of the multi-directional stations that mimic natural movement. Not only do we not have the machines, the majority of our trainers are cluless that their knowledge base is primitive.

Our sports physiotherapy wings are based on the hospital model of trying to cure aches and pains instead of rehabilitating injuries specific to athletes. Expertise to impart deep tissue massage along with individual and sport specific nutrition is nonexistent. While the better sporting nations formulate precise supplements based on blood and tissue samples from individual athletes, we have no such facilities in India.

Despite several proclamations to the contrary, the Patiala wrestling and boxing halls continue to be non-ac thus ensuring that athletes in these proven medal winning disciplines put in far less training than they could.

Indian sports federations continue to lament lack of finances but when corporates ask for a precise plan to fund their initiatives, vision documents refuse to turn up. Philanthropic bodies like the Mittal Champions Trust have been unable to disburse their entire annual budget for Olympic sport for want of adequate response from federations. The list goes on and on.

In the end Indian sport continues to languish under the chalta hai attitude that pervades our sports administrators. Perhaps we were just foolish in believing that success would translate into revamp. Yes, the junior spikers sought to break the glass ceiling, the boxers and wrestlers flicker defying adversity and Saina Nehwal does India proud but talk infrastructure and support systems and you realize that the more things change, the more they remain the same.