Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Indian Sports is Game for Politicians and Retired Cops

Missing an Olympics is not a big deal. India has made it many times in the past but still the crashing out of the Beijing Olympics’ hockey event was a painful affair after being in the race for eight decades, winning the trophy eight times.

When India won the crown in the 1928 Olympics, this country was a mere colony and the world has seen India’s excellent show with the hockey stick ever since, though in the past few decades things were going from bad to worse. Now with the defeat at Santiago at the hands of Britain, India will take its much needed rest…

Now the question is, how do we explain this extremely poor show in India’s performance in the sports world, even as it makes big strides in the economic and political spheres? This country is now seen as the greatest emerging power, an economic super power for the next decade and there is a keen interest in everything Indian elsewhere in the world. The past experience of the world is that when a country is showing great economic strength its performance in the track and field does take a high profile, as was evident in the case of the erstwhile Socialist bloc. They were medal-winning machines in Olympics and once the Soviet empire collapsed, we saw a sudden slump in their fortunes in the track and field too.

One explanation is that, to build a good team you need money. But money does not seem to be the only thing that a country needs to build an excellent team. You need team spirit and dedication. And a professional touch.

But India sadly lacks in all this, though it seems to be now better endowed with money to spend. Unless there is plenty of money to burn, you would not see so many retired policemen loitering around, as is the case with the Indian Hockey Federation. Its boss K P S Gill, a former Punjab police chief, runs it like a personal fiefdom, accompanied by around half a dozen other cops now without a day time job. Well, Gill has ruled out resignation. Why should he, as not only the IHF but almost all other sports associations in the country are run by politicians or their crones?

That is why I think the funniest remark of the day came from our Federal Sports Minister Mani Shankar Iyer, who said the day we lost at Santiago was a day of great tragedy. Mani is a man blessed with a silver tongue, but on this occasion even he has nothing but a clichĂ©’ to offer.

But what else the minister could say when political heavyweights are running roughshod over him?

(Cartoon courtesy:Sudheernath, New Delhi.)

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