Comparison with London Olympics
When India won six medals at the 2012 London Olympics, it was considered a watershed moment. The significance of this accomplishment lay in the fact that until then the country had earned a sum total of just seven individual medals.
The performance was expected to provide a springboard for future successes. Four years hence, on the back of heightened expectations and hopes of a double-digit tally, how should a return of two medals from the Rio Olympics be assessed? India shared 67th Rank with Mongolia in final Olympics Tally.
There were a few near-misses — Dipa Karmakar and Abhinav Bindra both finishing fourth, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna losing the bronze medal match, the women’s archery team coming close, and men’s hockey showing substantial improvement. Yet, it was no doubt underwhelming from the largest contingent of Indian athletes at the Olympics ever.
This leads to questions about the lack of a ‘sporting culture’. Does India have the infrastructure and coaching facilities to produce medal winners consistently?
Lack of Sporting facilities
India’s lone individual gold-medallist Bindra, alluding to the vastly improved performance by the British athletes backed by massive funding, says one must not “expect much until we put systems in place”.
However, developing a sporting culture means more than improving facilities.
View of Sports in India
It demands that people cease to see sport in archaic terms, of being nothing more than a pastime. While it is true that it cannot be a substitute for life-subsistence needs of the disadvantaged, the disdain for it transcends classes. It is important to understand that modern-day sport is professional at its core and helps in creating jobs and businesses. It is also an important tool for human resource development. In fact, the success of P.V. Sindhu and Sakshi Malik is representative of what a good sporting culture can achieve.
In addition to shooting, badminton and wrestling enjoy more patronage than other Olympic sporting events. But it is also enabled by parents and coaches willing to show faith and patience in their wards.