The Olympics are not just about Indian performances, or the lack of them. The magnificent feats of athletes from across the world should stir in us Indians the kind of passion that nothing else can.
Indeed, the impressive duo of PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik have broken several myths and moulds to establish India firmly on the medals table at Rio. Dipa Karmakar too excelled in the gymnastics competition, a realm that has hitherto remained foreign territory for Indian sportspersons.
These zestful girls have truly made our hearts swell with pride, more so because we know how excruciatingly difficult it is for Indian women to surge ahead in the sporting arena. The repressive attitude of the society at large towards the fairer sex, especially when it comes to their sporting aspirations is well entrenched in our country.
On another note, India would doubtless have bagged a few copper medals at successive Olympics had they been allocated for fourth place finishers! An uncle of mine came up with this tongue-in-cheek suggestion making me realise that near-misses often make all the difference in life. PT Usha and Milkha Singh are just as much a part of our folklore as will be Sindhu and Malik, but the medals tally sadly does not reflect that fact.
The clincher for Indian sports in the years to come will no doubt be the will to cleanse the system of officialdom, of malpractices, of nepotism and to rapidly upgrade facilities across the land. A country of India’s stature cannot afford to languish in the lower rungs of the list each time the Olympics arrive.
NOT JUST ABOUT PATRIOTISM
But the Olympics are not just about patriotism, they are about the efforts of sportspersons from across the world. There is so much glory for Olympic champions and so much pain for the also-rans that the whole spectacle makes for compelling viewing and unmatched inspiration.
India and Indians, children and youngsters in particular, must and just have to charge themselves up by following and celebrating the astounding feats of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and several others.
Bolt for instance is the epitome of passionate accomplishment. Why should an Indian boy or girl not get goose pimples while watching the greatest sprinter of all time grab his golden Triple-Treble? And the sheer joie de vivre that Bolt exemplifies when he celebrates victory after victory just has to light millions of fires in the hearts of our children.
The German hockey team exemplifies the spirit of never-say-die. The mental toughness with which they play was clearly on display against India when they scored a decisive goal with seconds to go, and even more so when they came from 0-2 behind against New Zealand to win 3-2 in the dying moments of their quarter final match.
The Brazilian pole-vaulter, Thiago Braz da Silva who scaled 6.03 metres to shatter the Olympic record, became an overnight star, having vanquished the much favoured icy cool Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, with an astonishing last vault.
Such feats do not come without grit and grime, without blood and toil, without many a spark of inspiration. It is not an easy task to wake up at 5 am and train rigorously for years on end to become a champion. Bolt did not become Bolt without having to put in thousands of excruciating sprints and millions of crunches, even if his body did not cooperate.
Indian youngsters can do that too, even if it takes more effort than athletes from countries with a culture of sports. That Indian junior who seeks to make a mark in the world of international sports cannot remain bogged down by an uncaring society and societal pressures that stifle the ambitions of hordes of young sportspersons at the altar of ‘this is what you should be doing in life, instead of playing!’
Thus even the parents and the officials who run sports need to cull an ounce of motivation from the amazing endeavours of Olympians from across the world. It is not only the young Indian who should garner that much from the Rio Games. The whole of India needs to!