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[Essay] Fifty Golds in Olympics: Can this be a reality for India?


India is world’s second-largest population and ninth largest economy; it’s the biggest democracy in existence and one of the oldest nations in history. But India is not very good at winning Olympic medals. There’s no single or certain answer to why, but India’s astonishingly poor performance offers some insights into just what does make an Olympic winner, and doesn’t.

The obvious question — why does India, despite a population of over one billion, field so few medalists? It is frequently ask as it is difficult to answer. There’s no consensus, no obvious explanation, no single unified theory of Indian Olympic under-performance. Though there are certainly some factors particular to India that might explain this trend, this story might say as much about the better-performing countries and their ability to exploit certain advantages that India lacks , so need of hour for India is to exhaust the lost opportunities that India lasted earlier and start from the scratch.

It’s important to note that Indian athletes are no slouches. Indian cricket and field hockey teams are routinely among the world’s finest, and the country  has an outstanding in a number of events at the Commonwealth Games, in which 50-plus former British colonies compete in a sort of mini-Olympics. After all, counting Olympic medals would be a poor way of quantifying a country’s overall athletic talent, because that’s not what the Olympics are about. India might have thousands of the world’s best runners, swimmers, archers, or basketball players. So there’s nothing about India or Indians that says they have to under-perform in sports, because they often don’t, so India have to learn from the China where the sporting talent are effectively work on different platform, which bring them glory and excel to do well. With the same ethos and dedication, India should break the vicious cycle for such sporting congregation.

So how to explain the Olympic medal deficiency? There are a number of theories. Probably the most common is that both India as a country and Indians as individuals just have other priorities. “Sport was never a priority for a majority of [Indian] parents and their kid, this notion and attitude toward sport should be plucked out to be in the picture.

It’s not just that Indians are poor — Indian GDP per capita is well into the bottom quartile of all countries, but they’re also weakened by poor infrastructure and governance, which touches everything from public health to education to opportunities for advancement. Why rich countries tend to perform so well in the Olympics, boosted by better access to athletics infrastructure such as swimming pools and tennis courts, by “talent magnetism,” and other factors. 

And, though India has an enormous population, its “effectively participating population” are low. They’re excluded by poor childhood health, physical isolation by poor transportation from the athletics centers in the big cities, or often because they simply are not sufficiently aware of the Olympics or the sports involved. Even the lack of connectedness across Indian communities may play a role, as the idea of competing for national prestige just doesn’t carry the same appeal or logic. India government and sporting authority perform brilliantly to skip off infrastructure problem to athlete and to the common mass.

Other developing countries besides India have managed to do quite well at the Olympics. China lead the world in gold medals in 2008, so why not India? though China has hundreds of millions of rural and urban poor, it also has a skyrocketing population of well-connected, well-educated, well-nourished citizens who make up the “effectively participating population.” It’s also possible to see a slight correlation between Olympic medals and developing countries that are run by strong central governments interested in fostering national prestige. Cuba, North Korea, China today, and once upon a time the Soviet Union invest heavily in finding and fostering competitive athletes. The Indian government, at this point, would probably just like to keep the light on , and is perhaps too decentralized for a China-style campaign to galvanize national athletic talent.

Still, income and governance alone can’t explain India’s under-performance, India, has to identify an Olympic event where its people might exceptionally excel.

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4 responses to “[Essay] Fifty Golds in Olympics: Can this be a reality for India?”

  1. vignesh says :

    Very good essay in terms of dealing with the core problem of sports advancement in India…And dealt well with why talented sports persons dont even recognize their talent and enter the sports field…
    Suggestions: Include recent events and the administrative aspect of sports in India …

    Liked by 1 person

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