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 first lady of the Reliance group was voted in as an individual member in Rio on Thursday polling 92.2% valid votes among eight candidates.
What does being an individual member entail?
The Olympic website states:
“The IOC members, natural persons, are representatives of the IOC in their respective countries, and not their country’s delegate within the IOC. As stated in the Olympic Charter: ‘Members of the IOC represent and promote the interests of the IOC and of the Olympic Movement in their countries and in the organisations of the Olympic Movement in which they serve.’”
So it’s not really a victory for the nation per se—if one wants to nitpick—but actually a shrewd move both by Nita Ambani and the Olympic Committee.
Evidently the committee considers India to be an important cog in its scheme of matters in years to come.
And Nita Ambani gains some legitimacy in the eyes of her numerous detractors and critics who consider her a privileged interloper in the world of Indian sport—not that she cares.
“I am truly humbled and overwhelmed to be elected by the IOC. This is a recognition of the growing importance of India in the world stage and a recognition for Indian women.
I have always believed in the power of sport to shape our youth. I believe that sports brings together communities, cultures, and generations has the power to unify and unite people. I look forward to spreading the spirit of Olympics and sports across our nation.
I’m working really with multi-sports in India. We want to encourage many other games besides cricket in India like football and basketball and let children be exposed to all kinds of games. So I’m looking forward to building a movement in sports for children in India.’’
She is the only current active Indian member in the IOC and the first Indian woman.
The IOC has 90 members, 36 honorary members and 1 honour member.
Honorary members are usually former members.
Dr. Henry Kissinger is the only honour member of the Committee.
It was 1988. It was the Summer Olympics in Seoul. Johnson had set the 100 meters world record of 9.83 seconds the previous year. Johnson, however, had injury problems coming into the Games. A hamstring injury had plagued him the whole season.
Johnson won. He also set a new world record: 9.79 seconds.
And then it ended almost as soon as it began.
The man was a cheat.
Johnson’s blood and urine samples were found to contain stanozolol.
The last citadel had been breached.
The Olympics , when it first begun, was celebrated as a coming together of amateur athletes under the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin for “Faster,Higher, Stronger.”
Amateurism made way for professionalism beginning gradually in the 1970s.
Sport was no longer clean or for fun. It was competition–cutthroat competition.
Every millisecond, every millimeter counted.
1988 also saw the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declaring all professional athletes eligible for the Olympics, subject to the approval of the international federations in charge of each sport.
Only soccer and baseball disallow pros at the Olympics.
Thus began the age of disillusion.
If Johnson could cheat, then how many others?
Reports of systematic doping in East European countries did nothing to counteract such perceptions.
More recently, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor, indulged in blood doping throughout his career.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Armstrong says:
“I’m that guy everybody wants to pretend never lived. But it happened, everything happened. We know what happened. Now it’s swung so far the other way… who’s that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about? Voldemort? It’s like that on every level. If you watch the Tour on American TV, if you read about it, it’s as if you can’t mention him.”
The Texan is riling his opponents once more by participating in the One Day Ahead ride, cycling part of the Tour de France route. The ride raises money to fight leukemia.
It is time we admit that we cannot hold our sporting heroes to a higher standard. They engage in a profession where every bit done can make a difference between winning and losing, between being the face of a shoe brand or simply being an also-ran.
Our modern-day heroes have feet of clay. We should learn to expect that they will disappoint us someday. They cannot be placed on a pedestal.
“But wait,”, you say, “these are the very personas my kids look up to.”
Yes, but isn’t that a reflection of the society and times we live in?
Children look up to actors and rock stars too. Are they held to a higher standard?
Then why sports persons?
Shouldn’t we teach our kids to look for heroes elsewhere? Real-life heroes.