India might have been hoping for a double-digit medal tally, but the half-dozen that she ended up with in the London Olympics represents her best ever result on the biggest sporting stage in the world. The fact that the country had won just seven individual medals in the Olympics since Independence should help put the latest achievement in perspective. The absence of a gold medal, in contrast to the Beijing effort, is certainly a dampener and so too the overall slide in the medals ranking from 50 to 55. The consolation, apart from the medals including two silvers, should be in nine other top-eight performances, and the promise held out by several youngsters. For a country with an annual sports budget of just over Rs 721 crore, where bureaucrats and sports administrators test the endurance of athletes even before they qualify for the Olympics, the London show should be considered encouraging even if it failed to live up to the hype created by over-ambitious official agencies and fanned by the media. The Indian medal winners — Gagan Narang, Vijay Kumar, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar — deserve all the accolades, including substantial cash awards that have been announced. The setbacks in boxing, attributed mainly to unfair judging, and the failure of the archers were factors that pulled India down. That the country plunged to an all-time low in hockey is a matter of shame and no time should be lost by the government in overhauling the faction-ridden administration or in preparing a blueprint for the grassroots-level development of the game.

Not unexpectedly, China had to make room at the top for the United States to regain its position in the medals tally with a total of 104, six less than last time, but with a gold count of 46, ten more than in Beijing. China’s gold collection came down from 51 to 38 while Britain exceeded a host country's expectations by taking 29 gold medals in a total of 65. Despite gloomy forecasts, and a whopping bill of $14 billion in hosting the Games, London pulled it off with great credit. Praise should go to organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe, a great middle distance runner of his era, for a job well done. Going into the pages of history, among many other breathtaking feats and world records were U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps’s all-time record Olympic medal haul of 22 and Usain Bolt’s unmatched brilliance in the sprints where he completed a back-to-back sweep of three gold medals to claim a legendary status for himself. Achievements like these allow people around the world to go beyond a narrow attachment to flag and nation for at least a brief while. Which is what the spirit of the Olympics is all about.

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