It’s finally official, hockey not a priority

Updated on May 10, 2007 02:33 AM IST

The downgrading of the national sport may be justified but not when it’s replaced by wushu, reports Uthra Ganesan.

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None | ByUthra Ganesan, New Delhi

On Wednesday, the Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) revised its categorisation of sports disciplines in the country. It was a move that could have been welcome, except for some curious, even illogical decisions.

The decision to downgrade men’s hockey will obviously be the most talked about. The letter from MYAS states that the “categorisation of sports disciplines was again reviewed based on their performance in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games (2006) and the World Championships.” The fallout of this review is that India’s national sport is no longer a priority.

“We admit our performance has not been great in recent times but there have been reasons for it. Even otherwise, hockey is the only team sport in which India has qualified for all Olympics so far. Which other sport can boast of such a track record?” asked IHF secretary K Jothikumaran. “It is bad for Indian hockey, but we have taken the decision sportingly,” he added.

Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has stated that the list was only an annual review and an improvement in performance could well see the sport reinstated in the priority list. But, even if the MYAS thinks that poor performance begets suitable measures, one wonders what stopped the government from acting earlier to stop the slide in the game. The Indian Hockey Federation has long been run as a fiefdom, with no accountability or transparency. But, instead of downgrading the sport, it would have been better if, for all the expense that the government incurs on the sport, the MYAS had demanded better administration from the officials.

But, if the decision to downgrade the national sport sounds absurd, imagine a martial art being upgraded from the lowest rung — the others category — to top priority. Wushu is not something most people in India would be familiar with. In fact, modern wushu was created only in 1949 and long considered only an exhibition sport, derived from traditional Chinese martial arts. For the record, India had already won four straight Olympic gold medals in hockey by then.

Interestingly, even as the government goes about making wushu a priority sport (perhaps, based on the Asian Games bronze), the International Olympic Committee is yet to recognise it as a sport. The International Wushu Federation’s proposal is yet to be accepted, though China has been allowed to organise a world wushu tournament during next year’s Beijing Olympics. But it is neither one of the 28 official Olympic sports nor a demonstration event.

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