Friday, August 26, 2016
It was billed as a victory, but non-Indians saw India's Rio Games as a defeat
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“2016 Olympics: the Indian giant, the Olympic dwarf” was the title of a recent article in the French daily Le Monde.
The daily writes: “The day, the time, the venue; each and every Indian journalist had ticked [in their agenda] Friday August 19. And too bad for the latecomers, they won’t find a place in the temporary structures of the Riocentro. That morning, India was playing for its first gold medal. Missed! Sindhu lost two sets to one, the final against the Spanish Carolina Marin.”
It is how a non-Indian saw Sindhu’s ‘historic’ defeat.
Back in India, everyone saw a great victory for India. Coach Gopichand and the player made the front pages of the press and despite getting ‘silver’, Sindhu became the “Golden Girl of India”.
In the euphoria of the ‘victory’, India’s pitiful overall results were forgotten!
At the end of the 19th century, Baron Pierre de Coubert decided to revive the old Olympics Spirit by emulating the ideals of Ancient Greece: body, mind and spirit should be developed simultaneously to produce complete beings. That was the purpose of education in ancient India too.
Coubertin's interpretation of the Olympic motto, Fortius, Citius, Altius, is fascinating. Fortius (stronger) referred to the body which had to be trained by repeated exercises to become healthier and stronger.
Citius (swifter) was connected with literary and scientific studies and the domain of the mind.
Altius (higher) had a deeper meaning connected with the sacred. All three levels had their importance; in common was the centrality of the 'effort' to reach the determined goal.
The mastery of oneself, generosity and respect for others are essential not only on the sports ground, but in life as well.
All this has totally been forgotten in modern India where education is just a mean to get a diploma and ultimately a lucrative babu’s job or a more creative one for the lucky ones.
It is not that Indians do not have the physical capacity to shine, Sakshi, Dipa or Sindhu and others have proved it.
While watching the Indian girls on TV, the story of Capt Bana Singh came to mind. On 26 June 1987, Bana Singh climbed the steep 457 m high wall of ice and despite the blizzard, the altitude and the freezing cold, he reached the ‘Quaid post’ (now ‘Bana Post’); located at a height of 6500 metres it is the highest peak on the Siachen Glacier. What an incredible physical feat! Who said that Indians are not physically fit and resistant?
Apart from the system of education which should be totally revamped, India should take an honest look at the octopus called cricket which is sucking most of the sports energies of the country. Can you imagine what could happen if even 50% of the funds available to cricket (not an Olympic sports) would be invested to create ‘sports academies’ like Pullela Gopichand as done for badminton in Hyderabad or Bishweswar Nandi in the NE for gymnastic.
A revolution in the mindset is however required if India does not want to be called a ‘dwarf’ anymore. Juvenal, the Roman poet spoke of ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ (‘a sound mind in a sound body’); it should be the new motto for education.
Indians (the media to start with) should not shout ‘victory’ when India fares so poorly, though the merit and the talent of all those who made it for the Games should be acknowledged as the Prime Minister did: “India is phenomenally proud of all our athletes in Rio & their hardwork that got them there. Victory & setbacks are all a part of life,” Modi tweeted.
There is no doubt that if medals were awarded ‘for merit’, India’s tally would be full. The fact remains India as a State is not doing enough, a tsunami of new sports initiatives/policies is necessary.
The Olympic motto may say: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part”, but it is also important to win.
One first step could be that politicians should be banned to run Indian sports federations. Only competent people, scrupulously honest and dedicated with a background in competition at the highest level, should look after sports affairs in India. Would India nominate as the head of a department of ISRO, someone without any knowledge in space sciences?
Has sycophancy helped a nation to get medals in the past?
All this will mean a long effort, a ‘marathon’.
Plans for the next 10, 20 or 40 years will need to be ‘scientifically’ prepared; financial support will be required not only from the Central and State governments but also from the private sector which has in the past, showed that with its dynamism it can make India a giant. Imagine if each large business house would sponsor a few sports academies of high excellence.
In 1920, in a letter to his brother Barin, Sri Aurobindo spoke of the strength of the Shakti “which has been swallowing up the [rest of the] world, like the tapaswins (ascetic) of our ancient times, by whose power even the gods of the world were terrified, held in suspense and subjection.”
India needs to recover that Shakti.
The Government of India decided to celebrate during the coming year, ‘Azadi 70’; what is required is a Second Azadi, in which India will not only be clean (swachh), but will not need to run to the West for its intellect to bloom; an India which will be a giant in sports, like it is today in economy.