India had to wait till Thursday for a medal at the Rio Olympics. It was both frustrating and humiliating to see India, a country of over one-and-a-quarter-billion people, failing to win even a bronze medal at Rio when tiny countries were raking in a profusion of medals. Thursday, thus, became a minor day of reckoning for India when Harya’s woman wrestler won a bronze medal and Sindhu, the badminton player from Hyderabad won the semi-fil, opening up a chance of winning a gold medal at Friday’s fil against Caroli Marin of Spain. The two have so far played seven matches with Sindhu winning three of them. But considering that Sindhu is in terrific form and is using her height to advantage, there is every reason to hope for a gold medal for India on Friday. However, the ignominy of being at the bottom of the medals list remains.
Anyone who has looked at how India planned for the Rio Olympics and how India invested on the prospective participants would have no reasons to be surprised at India’s miserable performance at Rio even though India sent a larger contingent than it had sent to the London Olympics in 2012. What one fails to understand is why India spent less in 2012-13 and 2014-15 than it did in 2013-14 on virtually every discipline. In fact, there is a pattern to it. What is even more interesting is that even after having identified nine sports disciplines as ‘high priority’ India kept spending much more on five badly-chosen ‘priority’ items like judo, squash, football, yachting and volleyball. A quick look at how India has been investing on its nine ‘high priority’ items—athletics, archery, badminton, boxing, hockey, shooting, wrestling, weight-lifting and tennis—is edifying. In 1912-13, India spent Rs 81.04 lakh on training for athletics. In 2013-14 the amount spent for athletics training was Rs 10.1437 crore and in 2014-15 it was again a measly Rs 83.55 lakh. In the case of archery, the amount spent in 2012-13 was Rs 1.4327 crore, in2013-14 it shot up to Rs 10.0057 crore, but was reduced to Rs 4.4859 crore in 2014-15. For badminton, the investment in 2012-13 was Rs 3.8272 crore; it went up to Rs 11.0635 crore in 2013-14, but came down again to Rs 5.1158 crore in 2014-15. The investment on boxing was Rs 2.3871 crore in 2012-13, it shot up to Rs 11.4549 crore in 2013-14 but came down again to Rs 99.36 lakh in 2014-15. For hockey, the investment in 2012-13 was Rs 5.6520 crore, it rose to Rs 12.6819 crore in 2013-14 but dropped to Rs 5.2033 crore in 2014-15. The pattern is predictably familiar for all disciplines—there is measly spending in 2012-13, substantial rises in 2013-14, and a drop again to the levels of 2012-13 or thereabouts in 2014-15. The investments made by India in 2012-13 and 2014-15 are indeed very measly and cannot take sportsmen and sportswomen with potential anywhere. By contrast, UK has invested the equivalent of Rs 58.74 crore on athletics, Rs 19.58 crore on badminton, Rs 30.46 crore on boxing and Rs 34.81 crore on hockey. And look where this investment has taken Britain! Britain has been able dislodge Chi from the second position in the Rio Olympics.
India’s preparation for the Rio Olympics has not only been grossly arbitrary and totally mindless, but has also gone against the country’s own commitment to treat certain disciplines as high priority. Strangely enough, this has resulted in greater investment on just ‘priority’ disciplines like judo (Rs 1.1466 crore), squash (Rs 1.0156 crore), football (Rs 1.3163 crore), yachting (Rs 1.1691 crore) and volleyball (Rs 1.2592 crore). These ill-conceived investments on disciplines like yachting, judo and squash are, in many cases, double the investments on the so-called ‘high priority’ disciplines. With such arbitrariness in matters like planning for the Olympics, what desirable results can the tion expect? It is high time the tion got rid of the present decision-makers for Olympic games and also replaced the politicians who head the sports federations of India with former players who understand the game far better. They have shown how gloriously they can fail.