Indians at the Olympic Games
On the occasion of the football World Cup, I had written a small post on the scene of football/soccer in India. Since then they created an Indian tournament with local teams and a few soccer Grandpas, international ex-stars, coming to lend a hand. Some clubs also finally understood that if the Indians are really crappy at soccer, on a global scale, it could be because nobody has actually ever invested in this sport; and that there are hidden talents, even if only statistically, when you take the size of the population… For instance, Paris-Saint-German has an Academy in India with programs especially in Gurgaon and Bangalore. So as FC Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal (source).
It reminds me of this movie I found very moving, Million Dollar Arm (a coach of American football who goes and recruits players in India through a cricket throwing ball selection to make them American football superstars).
But the topic of the day is actually the Olympic Games, just to be a little trendy. India sent this year 118 participants to Rio and harvested 2 medals. And not the least medals, in my humble opinion, since they were both won by women. And BAM. Silver in badminton and bronze in wrestling. The fact remains, however, that India totals 28 medals in the Summer Olympic Games since 1900, with 24 participations – the same number of medals that this machine of Phelphs got for himself this year alone! I don’t even speak about the Winter Olympics... 9 entries and 0 medal.
The topic of the moment in India is to understand why Indians are doing so bad at sports. I hear a lot of the absent sport culture, about parents who do not encourage their offspring to pursue sports, that there are not enough subsidies or enough money to make in this field and not enough sports facilities. And nobody says anything about the heat. And that maybe, after generations spent their lives sweating like pigs to make a living and put food in their plates, they don’t feel like chasing a ball for fun? (and anyways they may have become too fat for that)
That said, this is a big generalization to say that Indians are bad at sports. Maybe they do not shine in the Olympic Games, but since they do nothing like anybody else, they also have a whole series of local sports*. Some involving being dragged in the mud by a Buffalo (Kambala). Others fighthing while playing rugby and touching each other (Kabbadi). There are also rowing races boats and canoe and a lot of sports related to archery, wrestling and stick fight, like Kalari in Kerala. Even, at the time of the Vedas (more than a hundred years B.C.), “men of stature and circumstance were expected to be competent in chariot-racing, archery, horsemanship, military tactics, wrestling, weight-lifting, swimming and hunting. The guru-shishya (teacher-pupil) relationship has always been an integral part of Indian sport from time immemorial. Indian sport reached a peak of excellence when Buddhism held sway here.” Less known, these sports have somehow survived and would deserve some attention, if not a Olympic spot! (Bad luck for Indians that cricket and polo were discontinued in the Olympic Games)
It is also a big generalization since it seems that India ranked 3rd in the Special Olympic Games of 2015 – a competition for athletes with mental disabilities from 8 to 71 (different of the Paraolympics where competitors have physical disabilities). India gathered 173 medals! The best athletes are not necessarily those you could expect ;)
* Source: http://sports.indiapress.org/