Soon, the euphoria about Olympics medals, winners, losers and all the related frenzy on media channels, particularly on social media will die down. The fight over political claims for ‘owning’ Sindhu will subside. Very few will follow what Sindhu or other medalists eat for breakfast and may not track their tournaments in the coming months and years with the same fanfare. No problem.
The problem lies in letting the positively charged historic moment fade away as just another event instead of being a catalyst to invigorate and inspire millions of youth in India to embrace sports. What will be remembered perhaps is the number of crores of rupees Sindhu or Sakshi received or the gifts from Sachin Tendulkar or Salman Khan or awards and monetary rewards at the national and state level.
It’s sad that each Indian victory in sports – more so in individual games – is ‘celebrated’ in such a predictable showering of monetary awards for the ‘one’, at the risk of ignoring the ‘many’. The state minister in Telangana would be have been appreciated well if he had said he would arrange for more coaches to train more athletes than his inappropriate eagerness to find an international coach for Sindhu. Somewhere between the janata and the neta lies the quagmire of issues surrounding the dire need for promoting a healthy and vibrant sports culture in India.
By now China or Korea or other regulars in the Olympics hall of fame would have already prepared a blueprint for next Olympics. And we end up getting caught in debates, discussions and speculations about things that have absolutely nothing to do with sports, leave alone international events like Olympics!
Let’s remember, we are a huge country with unlimited potential, we cannot afford to complain or remain complacent by championing few winners and few coaches; we need to celebrate the ‘near-winners’, the ‘close-finishers’ and appreciate the ‘losers’ telling them how they can improve. And, above all, encourage participation and to grow volumes of sportspersons in different games at local, national and international levels. Only then we can take baby-steps in making sports an inclusive culture that can grow, nurture, survive and sustain on its own merit. Celebration is a must – but it should not be one-off, it should continue till Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
Let’s celebrate the unsung performers: True to the spirit of sports, why don’t the authorities and celebrities recognize the participants, the average performers and achievers in all feats – big and small – why does it have to be after a 4 year interval? By neglecting the ‘average’ performers who form the critical mass of participants, we are nipping the promising talent in the bud.
Let’s celebrate the skills and abilities: Sports is synonymous with a host of physical and mental skills that are acquired through rigorous practice and dedicated coaching. The temperament of being a sportsperson could be a game changer in any sport. Let’s focus on these aspects in a balanced manner, without overemphasis on awards and rewards that reinforce the materialistic aspects that hinder the process of genuinely enjoying success.
Let’s celebrate stadiums, swimming pools and playgrounds: We complain about lack of infrastructure; do we even think back on how the existing infrastructure is being utilized to the optimum. It’s not just the physical space but the entire range of activities, people, processes and equipment that is necessary to keep the stadium alive and in-use.
Let’s celebrate the journey and the destination: A medal is symbolic of both the process that went into winning it and the actual moment of glory. The process is complex, filled with challenges, filled with ruthless stories of toil and sweat that prepares one to face the competition. We can’t be defensive and complacent in accepting our own inefficiencies by saying that the achievers have done it ‘in spite of our systemic flaws’ or infrastructural deficiencies.
Let’s celebrate diversity and multitudes: How about supporting the budding players through grassroots level sports drives and talent hunt? How about systematic promotion of sports in all the schools through public-private partnership models? How about educating parents about the value of sports in holistic education and why they should spend on it? Let’s not mix up the price and value of sports with ROI in the form of medals.
Let’s celebrate the support system: Not just the parents, friends and coaches of the winners, let acknowledge the entire support system – it could be the staff at the sports academy or the stadium or the cheer leaders, the sports enthusiasts and several others who form the dependable backbone to make things happen. Particularly for girls in India, we need better systems in place to encourage and sustain participation.
Let’s celebrate the spirit of competition: True to the motto of Olympics – Citius, Altius, Fortius = faster, higher, stronger – competition knows no gender, caste, race, or any such divisive factor. The grit, determination, dedication, courage, aggression, passion, self-belief and other qualities are common to all – girls or boys who have the talent and potential to compete for any event.
Let the action begin for “Operation Tokyo Olympics 2020” and many more events in between…who knows how many sports stars are waiting to be discovered!
Disclaimer: The objective of this article is to celebrate and respect all the Indian winners and medalists in Olympics and other games in many ways; it doesn’t intend to demean anyone in the process. The Tokyo Olympics logo is picked up from https://tokyo2020.jp/en/games/emblem/