For the last 16 days , people from all over the world marveled at performances of athletes showcasing human excellence at Olympics.
India , country of 1.25 billion people, have ended their #Rio2106 campaign with just 2 medal. As expected, it has again forced people in India to ponder on why our athletes don’t perform well at Olympics.
There are many countries who have successfully changed their fortunes at Olympics and among all, how China did it is most talked about. Chinese model has been dissected many a times so let me take you to what Great Britain did to change their fortunes at Olympics.
The headline news from Britain will leave many Indians (who wake up during olympics and ask why we don’t win medals) startled. It is said that each medal at Rio Olympics has cost Britain approximately £5.5 million. This is staggering amount of money when compared to what India spends on its athletes. We belive in awarding athletes when they have won Olympic medal despite going through our rotten system. We don’t belive in investing in athletes who if nurtured can become future stars.
Coming back to Great Britain story. There is more than money that Great Britain is doing to get medals. I am highlighting what steps were followed by them that led to such a change in two decade ( from 36th in the medal table at 1996 Atlanta Olympics to 2nd in 2016 Rio Olympics)
UK Sport spends 2/3 amount of money allocated for sports development on athletes aged between 14 to 25 to have a long term impact i.e to raise standards of athletes to international level. For immediate results, they invested in what they called ‘podium level athletes’. PLA are those athletes who have either performed well at Senior World Championship or are considered talented enough to have major impact in coming Olympics. Above steps gave them both immediate success and ensured that future stars are too taken care of.
They also brought in a method to reward sports bodies as per their performances. They gave them a target of number of medals for every Olympics and funded them accordingly. If they failed to get the targeted number of medals, their funds were cut. This gave clear signal to sports bodies that they should either perform or perish.
Ofcourse , above mentioned methods have their perils too but if we want to improve our standings in medal table, this model with some modifications should be immediately adopted in India.
People attached to sports like Badminton,Shooting, Boxing, Archery and Wrestling etc should be given more priority and funds for immediate success as they are producing players of international standards one after another and need just a push to produce medal winners at Olympics.
For example India doesn’t have ( or may be just has one) an AC indoor practice court for wrestlers. Providing it would certainly make a difference in practice hours of wrestlers and will produce results for India. On an average,in oppressive heat of India, at outdoor practice courts wrestlers can practice efficiently for approximately half an hour where as in AC indoor court their efficient practice time can increase to more than three hours. This change can certainly lead to more medals at wrestling that has 18 gold medals up for grab. Similar push is required in Badminton, Boxing, Archery and Shooting where India already has skilled players and they just need a bit of financial and infra support to be medal winners.
Funding Podium level athletes and meeting their requirements should also be followed. Players like Dipa Karmakar, Kidambi Srikanth, Atanu Das, Aditi Ashok, Manish Singh Rawat, Gurmeet Singh etc needs to be taken care of as they are closest to be a medal winner. Preparing them well could easily land few medals for India at next Olympics. How India lack in this can be seen from the fact that demand of women physio from medal prospects like Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik were denied and was given to Dipa Karmakar only when she reached in the final. How can we expect these athletes to be at their best when their support staffs are missing ?
Big change that needs to be done is change in the functioning of sports bodies in India. Most of them are highly inefficient. Highly inefficient is actually appreciation for them, the term that should be used for them is rotten.They give more priority to power politics and welfare of themselves than to improving environment and infra for players. Recent example of their apathy is when administrators/officials flew business class and made athletes to fly in economy class, as if administrators/officials have gone to strive for medals. In contrast, Britain made sure that their athletes who have greater chance of winning medal flew business class and administrators and other athletes in economy class. Athletes flying in economy class is not a big issue but it certainly displays where the priority lies.
How Sports Authority of India is run in our country is another puzzle that needs to be solved immediately. There are many things that needs to be done and many model that can be followed to change the fortunes of India at Olympics but all this will fail if attitude of our society doesn’t change towards sport and fitness ( I will leave that discussion for some other day. )
P.S ~ Last time when we tried to follow Britain model, it took us to near disaster (Parliametary and bureaucratic model and that has been a failure to say least) but I still believe following Britain model in sports can certainly help in medium term.