Indian sports policy lacks direction and vision

By K.S.Venkatachlam Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/22 23:43:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

India was saved blushes when India's Sakshi Mallik, in freestyle wrestling, and P.V. Sindhu in badminton, put India on the medals table. The overall performance of Indian athletes has been dismal. A country with a 2-trillion-dollar economy and a billion-plus population has managed to win just 27 medals in the entire history of the Olympic Games.

Due to politics, corruption and nepotism, Indian sports have never taken off. The Commonwealth Games in 2010 was buried under bad publicity because of various scams that surfaced regarding sports equipment and the building of sports facilities. In December 2012, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) after warning the government about interfering in the IOA's election process. Similarly, the Indian Hockey Federation suffered because of the warring of two internal factions trying to control it.

An article by the BBC listed several reasons behind India's repeated failures at the Olympics. It blames the Indian government for the lack of infrastructure, poor health, poverty, girls not being allowed to participate in sports, boys being coaxed into becoming doctors and engineers and the popularity of cricket over other sports.

The article also points out that in terms of medals per capita, India ranks last of the countries that have won any medals. India had won only six medals in the 2012 Olympic Games, while none was gold.

Some other media reports have blamed the Indian culture as being a hindrance in local sports development which has reflected in lack of success in successive Olympic. They say most families in India stop children from taking part in high-level competitions and blame cricket as being an impediment for children not taking to other sports.

The Indian government should take the comments of international media in the right spirit and evolve a policy that encourages sports in schools and colleges. Usain Bolt credited the school system in Jamaica for his success.

Many studies have shown that the reasons for the lack of sports culture in India are due to Indian parents being averse to their children pursuing sports. They encourage their children to become engineers, doctors, accountants or lawyers, as they feel that sports cannot give financial security.

It is here that India needs to take a leaf out of China's sports policy. They need to build world-class sports centers, provide world-class facilities for training, make the best sports equipment available for the budding sportspersons and lastly, hire top class foreign coaches.

China has over 850,000 gyms and more than 3,000 specialized sports facilities. India should not hesitate to seek China's assistance in building good sports facilities and also provide their coaches to spot talent in schools so that they can be nurtured by the sports federations to become top-class athletes.

Finally, India is participating in very few events in the Olympic Games and, if they want to improve the medal tally in future Olympics, they need to encourage children to take up cycling, gymnastics, swimming and diving to improve their medal chances. Too many children now are dedicating their time to sports that they enjoy such as cricket and football, or for studying for a prosperous future, rather than being trained for Olympic events.

A well thought-out policy with a heavy investment in sports can enable India to get success in future Olympics. All that is required is political will in handing over the control of sports federations to professional sportsmen with good administrative experience.

The author is a columnist and political commentator. He writes for many leading newspapers. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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