New Delhi: If quibbling was a sport, India would win gold.
The fact is, a total of 6 medals amount to Indian's best ever performance at the Summer Games. But there is still no dearth of people whining and complaining about how India failed to win a single gold in London and how India's rank of 55th on the medals table is much worse than where they finished in Beijing four years ago (50th). The usual argument is - How can a country of 1.2 billion people be satisfied with just a handful of medals?
A myopic view if you ask me.
India might be the second most populous country in the world but how many of the 1.2 billion pursue sports seriously? The numbers I'm afraid, would be abysmal. Remove cricket from the equation and the number of youngsters wanting to become serious sportsman/women would be as few as the number of goals the Indian hockey team scored in London.
While there is no denying that the major obstacle still remains India's poor sports system that doesn't allow a talented sportsman at the school level to make the transition into becoming a professional. But that can't be our only excuse. We can't absolve ourselves from being guilty of nipping a sports talent in the bud. How many of us encourage our kids/nephew/niece to choose sports as a career? Isn't Doctor/Engineer/Lawyer still the preferred career choice of most parents for their children? With a culture that doesn't encourage sports; do we have the right to complain about not winning more Olympic medals?
Our step motherly treatment towards sports doesn't end there. Fathom this: Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) is a non-profit organistation that has been supporting athletes in their quest for Olympic glory by providing them money for coaches, good diet, travelling abroad for training etc. In fact 4 of the 6 medal winners in London are athletes supported by OGQ . Amongst the various methods adopted by the OGQ to raise money for its athletes is also the ECS approach, i.e. going from door to door, asking citizens to donate a small amount from their monthly salary towards the training of India's Olympic athletes. Last I checked, from a country of 1.2 billion, 15 lakh is all they had managed in 2 years.
To appreciate India's performance in London one needs to peep into the history books. Two decades of disappointments, despair and heartbreaks. From the first round exits in Barcelona 1992 to some more first round exits in Atlanta 1996 (Leander Paes' bronze the only exception). Sydney 2000 was a gut wrenching experience for most Indian fans, with the hockey team and boxer Gurcharan Singh letting a medal slip out of their hands just seconds before the final bell. In the end, a bronze by Karnam Malleshwari was all that a contingent of 52 brought back from Sydney.
Compare that to the three medals in Beijing and the six in London and there is no denying the fact that the performance graph of Indian athletes has shot up. And it isn't just the number of medals, but the number of Indians making it into the finals of their respective events that has ensured Indian fans can finally watch their own countrymen perform at the biggest sporting stage in the world. A far cry from what used to happen a few years ago, when Indian fans had to be content with watching foreign athletes on TV during the Olympics.
So, if we are proud of being an economic super power, boasting of an economy that has grown by 5 folds since the liberalisation policy of 1991, why can't we also be proud of our performance at the Olympics? Which, by the way, has multiplied six folds during the same period!