Everyone Loves Olympic Medals But Few Understand The Games

Throughout the year we debate everything except Olympics. Then just when the Games are around, even those who hardly understand sports becomes armchair experts. It’s another matter that these ‘experts’ don’t have any understanding about Olympics or the events that are played for podium finish.

That’s because Olympics for many in India are just Men’s Hockey in which the country won its last gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Games or Saina Nehawal’s historic badminton bronze in London 2012 or Leander Paes’ lawn tennis bronze in Atlanta 1996 or Abhinav Bindra’s gold in shooting in Beijing 2008, etc. Remember whatever India wins, it will always be historic because our presence in the Olympics podium is always scarce.

There are 339 gold medal events in 33 sports at offer in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics. India will have its presence in 18 sports with 69 gold medal events with 120 sportspersons, including 68 men and 52 women.

This means we still have no presence in 15 sports that include 270 gold medal events. This is something that needs attention of all those who are following the Olympics beyond advertisement, business and follower opportunity.

Even in Rio 2016, out of 31 sports with 306 gold medal events, India had its presence in 15 sports with 66 gold medal events with 67 men and 54 women competitors. In other words, we had no presence in 16 sports that included 240 gold medal events.

In London 2012, India was represented by 83 sportspersons (60 men and 23 women) in 13 sports with 55 gold medal events. Of these, India won 4 bronze and 2 silver. In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, 57 athletes in 12 sports represented India, and for the first time since 1928, the men’s national field hockey team was unable to take part in the Summer Olympics after failing to qualify.

The Games in Tokyo will feature 339 events in 33 different sports, encompassing a total of 50 disciplines. Alongside the five new sports that are expected to be introduced in Tokyo, fifteen new events within existing sports are also planned, including 3×3 basketball, freestyle BMX, and the return of Madison cycling, as well as new mixed events in several sports.

What is important from India’s point of view is instead of hoping for a miracle in winning more medals, it’s better to teach children about sports being played at the Olympics, invest in infrastructure, identify talents, groom them and wait for medals. That’s how Olympians are produced, that’s how they win medals in the Games.

Imagine in 1996, Great Britain took 300 athletes to the Olympic Games in Atlanta. It came home with just one gold medal, a 36th-place finish in the overall table sandwiched between Ethiopia and Belarus. That was the moment Team GB realised the real push for careful consideration on which sports should the country build around. The answer was a small, relatively obscure sport in which Britain had precious little Olympic history —track cycling.

Then in the years that followed, Britain turned around its national sports programs. Now, two decades later, track cycling has become the bedrock of Britain’s rise into a powerhouse at the Summer Games.

In 2008 and 2012, British riders took 14 out of 20 possible gold medals in track cycling. Even in Rio 2016, Britain won six gold, four silver and three bronze, making for a total of 13 medals in cycling.

I am 100 per cent sure that no one in our schooldays nor today ever shared with us the events that offer medals or how many events are there for medals. Also, no one ever told us about incredible stories of Olympic champions or Olympians in our academics except for Major Dhyanchand. It’s high time that our school texts include those high moments of Olympics, particularly before a child reaches high school level.

In simple terms, more the people understand Olympics, better will be the chance to produce Olympians instead of merely dreaming of medals. Just because India has the world’s second largest population behind China, doesn’t mean it can win medals like the Chinese do.

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