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The need for corporates to actively foster India's sports capabilities

Our performance in the London Olympics is a bit like touching, while blindfolded, different parts of an elephant. Some would say we have done extremely well, while others would express deep disappointment at most members of our large contingent returning empty-handed. If one looks at the historical context, clearly, this has been our best performance, having bagged six medals, the highest tally that India has earned in any previous Olympics event.

However, if we as a country of 1.2 billion people compare ourselves with other nations, we have reason to feel very humble. The London Olympics saw the US back with the largest tally of 104 medals and 46 gold medals. The People's Republic of China, which came second, had a total of 87 medals with 38 gold. Even a country like the Netherlands, the population of which is less than that of Delhi, won six gold medals and a total of 20.

Despite this unfavourable comparative assessment, I think we have reason to feel largely satisfied and optimistic about the future. If we make efforts in earnest, not only can we improve on our performance substantially at Rio in 2016 but more purposefully, even better in the 2020 games. Yet, success will elude us unless we make a radical departure from the manner in which we organise our sports in this country and specifically with our preparations for the 2016 Olympics and beyond. India had a large contingent of participants in the London Games, a total of 83 contestants, and while medals eluded a large number of them, the performance of several was promising.

If we go back to India's performance through successive Olympic Games, the very first medal for India went to Norman Pritchard in 1900 when he won two silver medals. The golden age of India's showing, however, dawned in 1928 when India won the gold in field hockey. This became India's monopoly throughout the period 1928-64 except for 1960, when in the Rome Olympics, India managed to bag only a silver medal. Subsequently, a decline set in, ending in India's pathetic performance in field hockey in London. This despite the promise that a relatively young and talented team seemed to inspire before the Olympics began this year. The first match that India played was a tough encounter, where even though our team played well in the second half, they lost after a tough fight. Subsequent performances were far below par and the reasons behind it need to be analysed in depth.

As far as our performance in sports is concerned, this is not merely a matter for government to promote and build or the sole preserve of various sports bodies that leave much to be desired in their manner of functioning. Our performance in the Olympics is a matter of national pride that requires the involvement of all stakeholders. If this reality is accepted, then it is time that corporate organisations take on an important role in fostering and patronising sports, and their efforts should certainly go beyond offering employment to the odd star cricketer. They must focus on creating the conditions for discovering, creating and building talent across the board in every game or sport.

Tags: TERI, Olympics 2016, London, gold medals, sports infrastructure, Dr R K Pachauri, Indian olympics

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