The London Olympics could be seen as glass half full or half empty for the 81-strong Indian contingent, the biggest that the country hassent to the summer Olympics.

The team scooped up six medals — four bronze and two silver — which may be double of what it got at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but a worse showing in terms of there being no gold in the kitty.

They made it

There were the obvious heroes such as wrestlers Sushil Kumar (66 kg category) and Yogheshwar Dutt (60 kg), winning a silver and a bronze respectively. Sushil Kumar also became the first Indian sportsperson to win medals in two consecutive Olympics, although it was a pity a gold eluded him as he suffered from dehydration and cramps in the final bout.

Shooter Vijay Kumar, (25 m rapid fire pistol) who won silver and Gagan Narang (10 m air rifle) who claimed a bronze were quite the achievers. Mary Kom (flyweight category) put up a stunning performance, before falling in the semi-final bout to a taller and better British opponent, bagging a bronze.

Badminton ace Saina Nehwal’s bronze came as a bonus as her injured opponent conceded the match. She deserved that luck for having simply put Indian badminton on a different plane, with her solid performance season after season on the world stage.

The unfortunates

The other Indian performers were disappointing to say the least. The boxers drew a blank, though it could be said that some controversial decisions went against them. Vikas Gowda and Poonia made it to the final rounds, but the athletes, in general, were never in the reckoning in a big way.

The Indian archers were way off the mark and Deepika Kumari, who was tipped for an individual medal, was a big let-down.

The much fancied tennis team was a washout, although one must give credit to Vishnu Vardhan, who blended well with veteran Leander Paes in men’s doubles.

The most shocking spectacle at the Olympics, however was the decimation of Indian men’s hockey team, which once ruled the world. India failed to win a single group match. It might not be fair to blame the team alone as the Indian hockey administration, plagued by factionalism and infighting, has often been detrimental to the game.

Balancing act

Now that the show is over, there will be a post-mortem of India’s overall performance. The government has spent over Rs. 250 crore on the Olympic preparations. The results hardly match the overheads and expenditure, for a country having to choose from wide ranging priorities.

What is reflected is perhaps that preparations were just not good enough and most of our sportspersons were satisfied just qualifying for the Olympics.

On the other hand, Rs. 250 crore translates roughly into £ 0.3 million or $ 0.5 million. Compared to the U.K. spending £ 500 million, the U.S. spending $ 195 million, and China, which normally does not make public its spending on sports, estimated to be spending around the same, the Indian Government’s Olympic ‘excess’ pales.

Those are the tough choices this country, perhaps, has to make in its spending. It could compensate by making sports accessible to children of all ages, classes and gender, thereby making the fostering of a favourable sporting environment a permanent thing rather than just an Olympic preparation.


Match PointJanuary 13, 2011

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