Sports enthusiast ‘Olympic' S.Rangaswamy has been to the Olympics five times

A slightly built man dressed in white, with a Gandhian cap and angavastram, and tricolor flag in his hands stood in the stands shouting ‘Come on, India!' It was 1988, the year of the Seoul Olympics. A handloom businessman, ‘Olympic' S. Rangaswamy was 53 then. He travelled with a friend to watch the games for the first time. “Every morning, after a breakfast of bread and pickles form home, we would head to the stadium to watch Indian athletes compete with sportspersons from across the world,” recalls Rangaswamy.

For Rangaswamy, the fact that Indians rarely figured in the top-three positions did not matter. All he wanted to do was be there, see them and cheer them on. He enjoyed this so much that he was there for all of the following Olympic Games. “I attended the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona, the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta, the 2000 Olympics at Sydney and the 2008 Olympics at Beijing,” he says.

The nerve-wracking moments when athletes take position before a 100mts dash, the rush of adrenaline, the sight of the sprinter's arms raised high in triumph, the audience in the stands screaming like one single being…Rangaswamy loves it all.

“Tickets for the game run out a year before it starts. So you have to be fast if you want a seat,” smiles the 76-year-old. He slept in airports, made friends in strange lands, rubbed shoulders with star athletes…For the sports enthusiast, the fact that he was there for five Olympic Games is a matter of pride. “I was there,” he says, “when Ben Johnson was at his best, when Leander Paes won a bronze in the singles.”

“The Olympics is like a festival for the host country, you know. You can see thousands of people flocking around the stadium,” he says. “Of all the nations that participate, the flag of only one will fly high in the end. Imagine how proud the nation must feel! That is the Olympics” he smiles.

Even in Coimbatore, Rangaswamy's day begins with a trip to the Nehru Stadium. “I go there at 6 a.m. every morning,” he says. This has been his routine for the past 50 years. For athletes who come to practise at the Stadium, Rangaswamy is better known as ‘Olympic periayavar'. He would chat with them about their games, advise them on their diet.

“Boiled eggs and dates are a must in an athlete's diet,” he says. Every summer, he sponsors boiled eggs, dates, bread and butter and cakes for a day to youngsters participating in sports camps. Health, he says should be top priority of not just athletes. Rangaswamy firmly believes that the spirit of the game is more important than winning.

“Of course, everyone loves to win a medal. I tell youngsters that in the Olympics, only one nation wins. It doesn't mean the rest are not important.”

“Spend a little time on any sport of your choice every day,” advises Rangaswamy. “You won't need a doctor at all”. Besides, he says Olympics are conducted so that nations remain healthy. “That's the aim of it all,” he smiles. And, “Run 100 mts 10 times every day, non-stop for five years. You're assured of a medal.”