Bhindra, Boxers and India's Sporting Renaissance

Written by Harsh Jegadeesan on 6:09 PM

When Abhinav Bindra clinched India's first ever individual gold medal in olympics, the whole nation erupted in joy! Chinese dailies featured Bindra on the front page, although with a bit of sarcasm, the headlines read "A nation of billion celebrates its first individual gold after 60 years". Coincidentally, China too got its first olympic in shooting (Xu Haifeng in 1984 L.A olympics).
Then came our boxers and wrestlers from small towns and humble backgrounds to win 2 more bronze medals, taking our total tally of medals to 3, our best ever performance in modern olympics.

Bhindra and our boxers have done us proud, will they lead India's sporting renaissance? Sports in India has always taken a back-seat due to lack of quality infrastructure, government funding, our ailing and corrupt sports authorities and federations, but most importantly the lack of desire and collective will! India in its bid to match China's olympic grandeur , is loosening its purse and upping its spending for the 2010 Commonwealth games. But are we making concerted efforts to up our medals too?

Indian sports for all these years has been centered around "cricket", thanks to the multi-million viewership and big money from corporate advertisements. Cricket coaching camps have mushroomed all over India thanks to the popular IPL's 20-20 format and our small-town boys who have made their money playing cricket! we are leading the world in cricket, a sport which we adopted from our erstwhile rulers - the British. Can we replicate our cricketing success to other sports?

China in a span on 2 decades (1984 - 2008) has increased its medals tally and got more gold than the U.S for the first time. China attributed the olympic success to the "emergence of Asia", its economic upheaval has no doubt attributed to China's success in olympics. Can India, the other asian tiger emulate this? We might not agree on or afford the means that China has adopted, nevertheless we must build a right ecosystem to chase our olympic glory.

The sporting culture must start at our primary schools, where currently sports is given up to pursue alternate and safer career options. In most cases, sports is never a career option, due to uncertainties, threatening injuries and simple lack of encouragement from parents and teachers. Our government has to increase the spending on sports, our sports bodies must manage these funds effectively to build quality sporting infrastructure, spot and groom talent. Our corporates and media have to endorse and glorify olympic sports! We have to aggressively target and pursue certain sporting disciplines for the 2012 London Olympics. India's sporting renaissance must begin!

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