Shobhha De’s series of ‘well-timed’ tweets deploring Indian athletes’ performances at the Olympics was roundly castigated by the Twitteratti with Abhinav Bindra and Sachin Tendulkar joining the discordant chorus.
“The athletes give their best in their efforts to win a medal. All the Indian athletes in Rio 2016 have my support. They work for years and years but when you miss out narrowly, you obviously feel bad.
When the results don’t go your way, that is when you need to support them.
The first half didn’t go our way but you have to support them when the chips are down.”
But there can’t be smoke without fire (not unless it’s dry ice, of course).
Five days into the Games and the medals tally still shows nought against India’s listing.
The shooters have disappointed sorely with only Abhinav Bindra coming close to a bronze and Dipa Karmakar making the vault final in gymnastics.
The archers continue to keep Indians back home waiting for their maiden medal despite years of selection and training to promote this ancient art and its modern avatar.
The London Olympics saw India claim six medals—two in shooting, two in wrestling and one each in badminton and boxing.
The expectations were that the Indian contingent of 119 would clinch at least seven this time.
That’s less than a six per cent chance of a medal for our sports-persons.
Is that what’s to be expected from our competitors—that 94 per cent of them are to be no-hopers and just make up the numbers and soak in the sights?
Admittedly, the qualification marks have been made stiffer in recent times and for most Indian athletes from sports other than cricket, a chance to participate in the Olympics is the highlight of their low-storied careers.
But surely we can and should demand more from them. Surely at least 25% of them should be realistic medal contenders and the rest should be earmarked as talents for the future sent to assimilate the ethos and pressure of the Games so that they are not overcome with stage fright the next time around.
The qualification marks too could be made a lot more stringent than the minimum needed.
Yes, De’s remarks were ill-advised and probably nothing more than a publicity stunt. It’s a wonder whether our Indian athletes would worry too much about a socialite columnist otherwise.
Perhaps, it’s time Ms. De penned a novella on the state of Indian sport and its heroes (and heroines) rather than her much-beloved Bollywood which conversely draws significant inspiration (and box-office success) from the annals of Indian sport in recent times.
The Court for Arbitration in Sports (CAS) has pronounced its verdict.
The IAAF-imposed ban on the Russian Athletics Federation stays.
No Russian track-and-field athlete will be competing in Rio—at least, not under their national flag.
The International Olympic Committee will decide the fate of the Russian contingent when it meets today.
The CAS judgment is non-binding on the Committee.
WADA and predominantly western nations’ Olympic Committees are vocally in favour of a blanket ban on the rogue nation given clear and damning evidence of state-sponsored collusion in doping. They feel that the IOC must exhibit ‘zero–tolerance‘ towards systematic doping by any state.
National Olympic Committees have been banned before—simply not for drug-related scandals.
Collective responsibility should not come at the cost of individual justice—the IOC is seeking a balance.
The Russian public believes that their country is being discriminated against by the Western world. They cannot accept that all their athletes are drugged.
A sanction against all Russian competitors would be unfair to those abiding by the rule book.
While the IOC has several options before arriving at a final decision, a simple solution would be to allow the Russians to participate—both under their national banner and the Olympic one but have each one of their athletes subjected to both in-competition and out-of-competition testing.
This would allow clean athletes to breathe freely and hopefully deter sportspersons who are doping.
This would also send a strong message to errant national sports federations everywhere that unless they clean up their act, their athletes and their fellow countrymen will be treated like Caesar’s wife—not above suspicion.
Simply leaving the decision to international sports federations burdens them further and not all of them are fully equipped to make an informed decision on the matter.
Whatever the IOC’s decision, there will be no pleasing everyone.
That’s a given.
What he said:
“Since I can only participate in the Olympics if walking were a sport, isiliye main woh hoon jo gaadi ko piche se dhakka de sakta hai (I’m that vehicle that can push from behind).”
Salman Khan is unperturbed about the controversy on his appointment as the Indian contingent’s Goodwill envoy to the Rio Olympics.
Describing his duties as ambassador, he said:
“I want to charge up the players and see how they are progressing. If we can increase our medal tally compared to last year, it would be great. When that happens, the infrastructure, diet, coaching and other facilities get better. Pehle (ambassador) nahi lekar aaye thay toh theek hai, par ab jab kisi ko lekar aaye hain toh (earlier the players never had an ambassador but now that they do have one ) the players should be encouraged. “
What he really meant:
“I don’t really have a sport and walking’s really not my style either, I’ll be that ambassador who leads the charge from behind—for a change.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“An ambassador is a man (or woman) who lies abroad for his or her country. Look at me, I’m doing it right here—for myself and Indian sport. ”
Salman Khan is upset and wishes to make amends.
The Bollywood star was apparently taken aback by all the criticism from various quarters—specifically Yogeshwar Dutt and Milkha Singh—at his appointment as goodwill ambassador to the Rio Olympics by the Indian Olympic Association.
Salman has announced that he and Aamir Khan will join forces and make yet another wrestling movie that will depict the stories of Dutt and Sushil Kumar.
The scion of Salim Khan will play Dutt and Aamir will essay the role of Kumar.
“That’s the least we can do for these magnificent real-life wrestling heroes. And I know how painful wrestling is— after Sultan. In fact, we’ll have Dutt and Kumar perform as body doubles for the shooting of this opus.”
The biopic is titled ‘Pehelwano’.
The Great Khali will be making a special appearance in the picture.
Dutt and Kumar are not so happy about Khali’s appearance grumbling that WWE is mere showmanship and wrestling cannot be about jumping up and down and yelling at your opponents. Kumar added that in the WWE anything goes and most fighting happens outside the ring.
The IOA was unavailable for comment.
Disclaimer: While the characters in this story are real, the tale isn’t. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
Is Salman Khan the right choice as Indian Olympic Association’s Goodwill Ambassador for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games?
The sporting fraternity is divided—-split wide open in fact.
Olympic bronze medalist at the 2012 London Games in the 60 kg freestyle wrestling category Yogeshwar Dutt condemned the move in a series of tweets.
“Can anyone tell me what’s the job of an ambassador? Why are you fooling the nation’s public?”
“You can promote your movie anywhere you like to. You have every right. But the Olympics is not the right place to do so.”
“PT Usha and Milkha Singh have served the country during difficult times. What has this ambassador done?”
“I’m a sportsperson, so I was made an ambassador. I don’t drink liquor nor smoke beedis or cigarettes. Why Salman for the Olympics?”
Milkha Singh who missed a medal by a whisker at the 1964 Rome Olympics in the 400 metres joined Dutt’s criticism saying:
“India has produced so many sportspersons who have given their sweat and blood for the country like PT Usha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Ajit Pal and so many others. One of these could have been made a goodwill ambassador. What was the need to import a person from Bollywood?”
IOA Vice-president Tarlochan Singh defended the decision.
“When celebrities who appeal to public come forward to help naturally we get more publicity which is good for sports. Trend among the youth is that they look towards such film celebrities. If we utilise them there’s no harm. We’re getting his ( Salman Khan) help and not giving him anything. IOA is not paying him a penny.”
Sports is entertainment and sports persons are entertainers.
So why can’t entertainers be sporting ambassadors? They can attract more eyeballs and appeal to a wider demographic. Perhaps, women will take much more interest in sports now that actors such as Dharmendra, Abhishek Bacchan, John Abraham, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and others are investing in sporting properties such as the IPL, ISL, PWL and others. Isn’t that what the IPL and Big Bash all about—an attempt to attract more women and children, making these games a family outing?
Sports other than cricket can certainly do with the boost and interest generated.
However, the timing of Salman’s appointment is suspect. The Bollywood superstar plays a wrestler in his upcoming movie Sultan. His rival Aamir Khan plays yet another in Dangal.
Was this one-upmanship on Salman’s part cocking a snook at the more thoughtful Khan?
It certainly stinks to high hell.
Salman Khan does not smell of roses given his embroilment in a hit-and-run court case despite being acquitted.
It doesn’t help that Sardar Singh and Mary Kom behaved like star-struck fans at the press conference.
Reel life imitates life—not the other way around. It’s time our sporting heroes realized that.
Pro boxer Vijender Singh disagrees:
“This isn’t about Salman bhai’s upcoming movie Sultan or its promotion. Salman does a lot of movies every year, and he doesn’t need Olympics for it. Like he himself said, he is doing it as a goodwill gesture. And I have no doubt that he is doing this for the better of Indian sports.
So all in all, I feel this is a really positive step for the future of sports in our country. I have no doubt that it will make a difference in terms of getting more people interested in Olympics sports.”
Singh is hardly the best person to comment though. The pugilist is part of Bollywood starring in the Hindi film Fugli. He probably still harbors filmi aspirations.
At the press conference, the charming Khan said:
“My heroes are Sania Mirza, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar in sports. I think wrestling is a very painful sport. I was shooting for my film where I shot for many wrestling sequences. I can act like I am fighting, but I cannot fight like wrestler in real life.”
Scriptwriter Salim Khan supported his son’s selection by taking to Twitter shooting out the following tweets:
(Salim Khan does make a point.
After sports persons, models and film actors are probably the fittest people in this country.
The fitness revolution in the film industry was heralded by the likes of Salman Khan and Sunjay Dutt.
Dutt took to body-building after kicking a drug habit.
The duo were a sea change from the chocolate heroes Indian womanhood went ga-ga over. It must be said that Salman and Sunjay combined brawn and glossy looks. They are also the perennial bad boys of Bollywood.
Now it’s rare to encounter any newcomer to Bollywood who does not boast a chiselled physique.
Abhay Deol and Ranbir Kapoor are notable exceptions.
Salman cultivates an image of a fitness icon and a hard drinker. It’s hard to reconcile the two. The man is a contradiction in terms: actor, drunk, Casanova, reckless and foolhardy, philanthropist, singer and painter.
“I heard someone saying sportsmen need publicity or sportsmen need Bollywood, but sportspersons do not need Bollywood or film industry for publicity, it is the other way round.
Movies made on sportspersons do not give them any excitement. They do the job for their country because that’s their passion and they want to do something for the country.”
“(Abhinav) Bindra would have been the ideal choice,” added Gambhir.
Pooja Bhatt too joined issue with Salim Khan about his comments on Milkha Singh and the Indian film industry.
Dipa Karmakar was hardly an unknown name when she made history a couple of days ago by becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. She’s also the first Indian gymnast to do so in 52 years.
She was that girl—the one who won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth games, another first.
Her compatriot Ashish Kumar won a medal at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth games and another at the Asian Games that same year.
But his success story ended due to infighting within the national gymnastics body and apathy from its administrators.
Karmakar hails from Tripura—one of India’s backward states. That she made it so far is incredible.
What’s galling , however, is that it is only now that she becomes part of the TOPS scheme for Olympic athletes with a grant of Rs. 30 lakhs.
Karmakar is an exponent of the dreaded Produnova vault; she has the highest score ever among women logging 15.100 with a 7.000 for difficulty, 8.100 for execution and a 0.1 penalty.
Incorrect execution could result in serious spinal injuries and even death.
Karmakar says, “I’d seen boys do it, so why not? It’s tough because when you land after two aerial somersaults, the weight that comes on the leg is double – if I’m 45 kg, the legs have to take 80-90 kg.”
The 22-year-old from Agartala has strong legs. She is only the third from five women gymnasts to successfully attempt the maneuver.
Can Karmakar bring home an Olympic medal?
Karmakar believes she can. She wants it—badly
Her sister Puja has no doubts that it’s possible.
She says, “The world maybe wondering where this motivation suddenly came from. We always knew. Just watch her on the Vault.”