Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Olympics are over - what can we learn that we never learn

Another olympics came to a scintillating close. China waived goodbye to the thousands of athletes, coaches, press and media and millions of eyes watching from around the world with a grand celebration and its head held high.

Apart from the obvious controversies of athlete's age, garbage judging in gymnastics, boxing and just a few doping incidents, the olympics was a phenomenal success for the communist nation.

This time i followed the olympics much closely than before. I kept up late nights watching games on NBC or the canadian CBET channel. So here are some observations.
1. It's a big pain in the butts to keep up late nights watching them and getting up early morning to be in office in time.
2. Great Britain won 7 out of 10 gold medals in indoor cycling. That's an incredibly high % of medals in any event and takes a huge chunk out of the 16 golds GB won overall.
3. China won 7 out of 8 gold medals up for grabs in diving. Except for the 'final dive' heroics by the Aussie Matthew Mitcham, China swept the golds in diving.
4. Ethiopia won 4 gold medals, all in long distance, won by 1 man and 1 woman. Two were men's 5000 m, 10000m and 2 were women's in exactly same categories.
5. US won 13 gold medals in swimming alone. That's more than 1/3rd of their total gold count.
6. Jamaica won 6 golds, 11 total medals. 100% of them in track and field. 100% of them in sprinting (100, 200, 100X 4).
7. There are 7 gold medals to grab in 'rowing' , 11 golds in 'kayaking/canoeing' , 6 golds in 'equestrian' events.
8. There are 14 golds to dig in gymnastics (China won 12 of these) and add 2 in rhythmic gymnastics.

Why i list these here, cos i felt a certain trend in these. For a medal deprived country like India, which spends exuberant amout of money, and excessive attention to the sport of cricket that is not part of the olympics at all and even if it is included in future can fetch only 1 (or 2) medals as a whole, look at the opportunities to grab medals !!
For the startes, we must put this on a notebook, how much of money, sponsorship which sports require. Look at Great Britain and their olympic program. They pay part of the tax money as salaries to athletes and they got excellent coaches who turned their cyclists (who also are great athletes) into world champions. If GB can do it, why can't we !
If Ethiopia can win long distance double gold, why can't we. Why can't we pick sports which have greater potential of giving results (and less fluff) and target them.
Jamaicans are known for sprinting. They have troubled the US athletes all the time. This time was their greatest trimuph.

One thing i've always heard is 'desi' ppl lack in strength and stamina to africa or western countries (no offense meant). But then what @ diving ? what @ gymnastics. If China sweeps men's gymnastics golds, and almost sweeps diving (you should have seen the Chinese divers, they are sleek, extremely lean and small compared to others. Being sleek and light is quite an advantage in diving. Their women's synchro pair looked like twins both in form and movements off the board.) there is no question of someone being bigger in size than you.
Our boxers have done well over time. Not that well may be to win multiple olympic medals but they have been noticeable from quite a while. But then that sport never got attention to pour money into it and develop the contemporary breed of young athletes into gold diggers. We have history of medal in weightlifting as well.

Abhinav Bindra won gold in 10m rifle - shooting. That doesn't require you to be big and heavy. And he won. There are so many ways to target certain sports and do good in them. Of course the first attempt may not fetch any gold medals but that would take you close to the podium. Even a bronze in a 'systematically targetted event' is a harbinger of future success to come. But we rely on individual athletes working their ass off w/o any financial support or security or little help in world class coaching and facilities. Somehow our folks manage to scrap a medal or two and whoa !! the whole country exults and then the politicians / sponsors start serenading them with rewards and long term contracts. We are always reactive, we can not for once think ahead and plan and support a system that can produce results.

May be we already know this, but are hesitant to take that first step. Why - cos obviously these sports are not 'popular' so there is little mass-awareness and media coverage for them. That means little sponsorship and hence little funds. Can our Govt take steps like GB to pay salaries ? Or ask BCCI to donate even 10% of its annual income to promoting and supporting other sports (that would be huge money !).


Tarun said...

What about golds in TT?
Anyways I wouldnt tell BCCI to contribute. I would just ask their marketing department so help.
You forgetting in late eighties BCCI was in loss ...
You know apart from boxers, latest scoop suggest just Rs 2 lakh were released for Indian athletes!!
I say free politicians from sports responsibilities.
There is enough money in corporate world for each to sponsor one athlete or sport and we can have some begining.

Keshi said...

Apart from admiring the sense of Unity that Olympics brings to the world, Im not such a great fan of watching it. I only watch Swimming and Gymnastics events.

Also, I see alot of politics, drugs and unhealthy habits of some particpants that spoil the true meaning of Sport. Its amazing how far or how low some ppl wud go just to get a medal.


Mandar said...

You bring a good point there dude !
But no company wud sponsor athletes unless they see some bang for the buck. They spend lot of money in charity, and that can be easily diverted towards sports. But charity for really good cause pitted against sports, the former wins.
WHat if they are given extra tax relief for supporting athletes? That sounds doable and acceptable.

@ TT & Badminton - yes !! China rocks in these too.

Hmm.. so right ! Sometimes, the expectations (of their nation or coaches or politicians) are sky high and they give in to the pressure.

Tarun said...

Yeah Tax relief sounds good to me.

But u know when Corporates come forward to sponsor, they wont blindly put in the money, perhaps they will have their own judgement which they will use to finally pay the expenses.

Keshi said...

I agree..its sad tho.