This Olympics, like every Olympics, is barren for India. The record is revealing. A silver medal and three bronze this time so far. A gold and two bronze the last time, a silver and a bronze the time before that. There is great media enthusiasm in India for our athletes in this period. Their progress is reported on front pages. In the language of our newspapers, India’s athletes “storm into the next round”. But they fall before medals are in sight and their storm blows over. Why does India fare so poorly? The answer obviously is that our athletes are not good enough to win.
China has collected 81 medals so far, including 37 gold. In the last Games, they got 100 medals including 51 gold. What could possibly explain this staggering difference?
In an excellent piece for Firstpost, (“Olympics: The difference between India and China is ... Family”) badminton champion Aparna Popat explained one key difference.
“China’s essential aim was to win glory for the nation through sport,” she wrote. “To achieve this goal, the Chinese established a centralised elite sports system. There were government-run sports training centres at all levels — national, provincial, city and county sports schools. Children as young as four years were identified and put into these training centres. With all expenses borne by the state, the children were made to train out of their skins so that one day they may excel at the international level and bring glory for the nation.”
On the other hand, Popat writes, in India the support comes mainly and perhaps, only from family. She writes of how her mother sacrificed her own life in support of her daughter’s talent. The mother of P Gopichand, another badminton champion, also did this. And so the argument is that in the absence of state support, it is family that steps in.
This is a good and sound explanation of why both she and Gopichand did so well, as did others who came through the same route.
Does it explain why there is such a difference between India and China? Perhaps, it does. But it assumes there are plenty of quality athletes in India awaiting state help. Is that the case? I don’t think so, and anecdotal data supports this. So then where should we look for illumination?
Someone has written a most entertaining piece of satire (“The secret Olympics diaries”) miming the style and thinking of Indian writers.
Your columnist, this worthless creature (as Aurangzeb referred to himself in his letters) has also been parodied. The piece, in my voice, seeks to explain India’s failure in cultural terms. My obsession with explaining things through caste has been deployed so skilfully by the anomymous writer that he has all but written this current piece for me.
And so I must speculate elsewhere, but without moving too far from culture, which is where most solutions are to be found.
There are two ways of looking at sporting success. One is external support, such as that provided by state or family.
The other, in my opinion the more important, is internal. For the state to build great Olympic squads, there must be tens of millions of youth interested in the physical life. I don’t think Indians are particularly inclined in this direction. The outdoors is not our space.
Aristotle laid down the principles of biology and physiology purely from observation. Thomas Jefferson, who had dozens of slaves, himself went out to record the temperature and barometric pressure at his Virginia home, Monticello, twice a day.
Most Indians cannot name the trees and birds that surround them (to the extent that they do) in our cities.
India’s texts — from Mahabharat to Maasir-i-Alamgiri — have little in them of physical description and of actual nature. There are exceptions, like Ferishta, but they are exceptions.
Arrian in a few throwaway paragraphs on Alexander’s Indian campaign tells us more about Punjab and the frontier’s topography than all of Heer.
Sports and athleticism are products of outdoors cultures, those that engage with the outside world. The Roman general Cincinnatus went back to working on his field after saving his country. He did this for the pleasure of working with his hands. This is unthinkable in India. Ours is a culture of servants, of gardeners. We have a contempt for physical work. There’s no chance of India excelling at the Olympics, which is a celebration of it.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2012.
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I agree with the author. We are not a sporting nation. The emphasis in India is on brain rather than brawn. Whether that is good or not is another matter.
Some one please tell me where pakistan stand in olympics
India has won 6 medals Pakistan wins Let.jUD,Haqqani,ttp
Education is something every Indian aspires to gain the most. It's the only tool that helps majority to get a better life. Education in India is pursued as a matter of survival and nothing less. Still, you can hold on to your imaginations if they comfort you doctor!
@Zalim Singh: This is the story of countless millions in South Asia. They have little control over what they want to do or become. All traditional societies must be suffering from this to some extent. It is only in a country of immigrants(USA) that unprecedented liberty of thought and action was nurtured and led to achievements unheard of in human history, I disagree with you in the sense that money should be a means to success and achievement rather than an end in itself.
We Indians are never allowed to participate in sports- generally speaking. This is left for "others" who want to get jobs in government service via sports quota. This means people from poor strata. Generally they lack dietary requirements (also means they are poor to buy quality food) and they also dont rise to world levels because of this problem. I wanted to be a world class athlete. I trained away from my family's notice. But somehow they came to know and it was curfew time for me. No more going out, coming late, participate in practice etc. How do you think anybody can win a medal at international level with such bossy parents who rub their opinions on their kids?
I feel the Indian system is the most cost effective among all nations. Athletes from India spend their time and money and train hard to win medals. Whereas USA or China spends in billions on their athletes. If Indian athletes don't win a medal the cost to the nation is negligible and if they do the prize to be given away is one or two crores for each medal won. So while cost per medal won for China or USA runs into several millions, cost for India per medal won is in fraction of a million dollar.
Why are you criticizing a more cost effective and efficient model. Because you are habituated to criticize India just to show off to your Pakistani friends how unbiased and objective you are.
@shoaib: turkey has lesser population than you do but still they won more and you were left empty hand why idiot??//?/
@menon Wrong. A minority of Indians emphasize education. A even smaller minority of muslims do. The Indians and the Pakistanis in US don't reflect the subcontinent. No I am not a Paki fanatic just a realist. The ancient greeks said to have a healthy mind you need a health body. You want to be mechanical engineer and can't even work with your hands. Thats the typical Indian or Paki from an elite school. Get real my friend.
I think this author needs to step out of his Gujrati home first, before talking, to realize that not all people are similar to his Gujrati family. I come from rural Punjab and I will say we are totally opposite to what this author describes. I grew up running around and playing in the farms. My grandfather, my uncles and even my father, despite having servants and hired help, still need to lead from the forefront, in scorching heat, getting all the farm work done. It is of little surprise than that most of India's athletes come from either Punjab or Haryana. They train hard with no state help and zero facilities and yet they still bring home olympic medals! The only thing which holds them back is the corrupt and dirty government which does not provide them with any facilities, nor do they even pay them much!
This is the response most trekkers get from colleagues,friends,family members. It's not about just some random people they encounter.I'm not the kind of person who looks for approval from anyone.I'm my own headstrong person.I'm just sharing my experiences and experiences of fellow trekkers; people looks at trekkers as weirdos with a strange sense of adventure and an unsound mind. We are considered insane for choosing to be a part of an adventure that is physically taxing; the word " passion " means zilch to most people I have come across.People dont fully grasp the meaning of that word.
Indians Pakistanis and Arabs are not athletic by genes
@Huma: I totally agree with you, if the author is so concerned about the state of sports in India, the author should write the article in an Indian News paper or an indian magazine and then expect people to read it and bring about an impact. i still dont understand wats the point of writing an article in a Pakistani news paper. And in case the Author has not realised, this has been the best Olympics, we Indians have had in the 64/65 years of existence, so rather than mocking the present athletes, why cant you write a couple of words of appreciation, again in an Indian News paper
I don't understand what this piece has to do with Pakistan or why is it appearing in a Pakistani newspaper. I think the most appropriate place for this op-ed piece is an Indian newspaper.
The reason why sports in general is abhored in India is because it isn't considered a 'safe profession'. If govt. were to provide a mechanism where people who pursue sports were assured of a job & career prospects once their playing days are over, even if they just win nation level medals - then more folks will pursue it as a career.
That alone will bring large amount of talent in to play and increase number of medals. In any case it is most likely that within the next three olympics India will be in top 10 medal tally.
Indeed, Indian give more importance to education than sports. It is the right thing to do, everyone don’t succeed in sports, only a select few does.
Majority in US give more importance to sports than academics and the US is crying and pleading for greater focus on academics.
These are all part of an evolving democracy, it has stages of growth and priorities it must go throw. It doesn’t do any good to anyone by comparing yourself with others in what they are successful only without considering anything else in the country.
Man on the street is not going to agree you many times and you should do what makes you feel good and what you enjoy. You should not be looking for approval. The poor soul that told you it is dangerous didn’t mean anything bad, he just said what he is used to.
For the first time, I kinda agree with Aakar Patel. Sports and outdoor activities are not really encouraged in India. I say this from my personal experience. I am a trekker. I trek the himalayas every year. And a lot of people have belittled me for being different. A couple of years back I took part in a cycling expedition in Ladakh. We cycled around 400 kms over a week. Here's what a random man in Leh said to me," Miss, you're being stupid taking part in this expedition.It's not for girls" This is the response trekkers ( esp females) get from the general public. I trek because it's the greatest passion of my life; I come from a family of trekkers. All of us have been looked at as morons risking their lives.
Sports in India is still a leisure activity , a voyeur game ..where we enjoy watching other play and win!!! . Sports in India is based on largesse of govts ( at centre and state), Govt cos, few Pvt cos , who treat this more as CSR activity. Cricket is an exception where governing body is milking the large fan following in India. other sports have been treated step motherly and the result is here to be seen. Its over simplification to state that Indians are not "outdoor" kind..!! Indian have performed in outdoor sports and have all potential..but due to lack of structured support either from Pvt cos, State..Schools/ Colleges , It will be a uphill task for Indians to beat other countries in BRIC!!
It comes down to 3 factors: sport selection, training, and practice. It's not rocket science. Countries like India and Pakistan send hordes of athletes and officials for single sports like field hockey, where at best 15 athletes will win a single medal. In contrast, China has traditionally focused on gymnastics and swimming, in which a single athlete has a chance to win multiple medals in different variations of the sport. You do the math.
In addition, most desis (and I know I'm generalizing here) don't really understand what practice and training really mean. It means single-minded dedication and hours and hours each day, for years. Desis think a "talented" natural athlete would win if only the country supported him or her. That's just not it. To win Olympic medals being a good natural athlete is completely insufficient.
And lastly, the calibre of coaches and trainers for most olympic sports is quite mediocre in India and Pakistan.
@Adil: Could not agree with you more. In any case lets first feed and educate are poor ,medals if they come is ok but for me there are other things which are far more important.
@not-an-indian: Why do u have an identity crises? Why do u call yourself "not-an-Indian", rather than calling yourself "A Pakistani"? Or am I correct in saying that- Pakistanis cannot have any identity without using India as the basis? !!! If u can answer this, declare a gold for yourself!!!
Great Britain was won 12 medals in cycling in London olympics,in reality British govt.was spend $100 million in last four years only for cycling(infrastracture,training etc..).At the same time Indian govt.was spend $ 50 million for all of them and they won 6 medals.
Success in Olympics and any International sports depends on how much money one is willing to invest. China has and is investing billions. India does not.
Investing billions in sports is not the right priority for India at the monument and if India did, people like Aakar Patel will be screaming about poverty alleviation and what not. Suppose two-bit journalists like Aakar Patel are not known for their deep thought but are known for their “you can do nothing right” mentality.
India’s success in cricket is directly proportional to the investment in cricket over decades.
Did you say medals? Havn't seen one for some time. Let's buy them in Pindi's Raja Bazar.
sushil kumar reach final in wrestling our total 6 medal is sure.we want gold.
Damn!! Aakar should have written this article a week back. India has won two more medals since yesterday! Won twice the number of medal than Beijing.
We should be asking why we have begging culture and not Sport. Higher the GDP of a nation more facilities provided to its citizen. We have absolute no Respect toward Citizen Character growth. Major portion of Pakistan budget allocated toward welfare of Pakistan Establishment and the contributing Tax Payer of Pakistan are Suckers with no welfare after retirement. The sports in Pakistan are for Elite. Improvement in promotion of sports will lead to healthy environment. Promotion of Sport Field will lessen Crime in major Urban areas. Tax Payer Money for Citizen Welfare and Not for just Elite.
Excellent piece. Always looking forward to reading your piece on Sundays.
Author's views on general Indian attitude towards sports is almost right. But, that does not explain the reasons for failure of most talented, resourceful top sportsmen and women at final stages of Olympics. Deepika Kumari is world no.1 in archery, but she failed in Olympics. Vijendra Kumar is no.1 in his category, he failed too Similarly in shooting and women's discuss throw. There are at least 5 such lost medals. This needs large study. This is not realm of pure sports anymore. Indians may run at same speed as Ussain Bolt, still unmindful of loosing for that last mili second. Unfortunately Olympics now is all about those last mili second, mil meter and mili gram..and mili of that mental space, which according to Indians can be ignored ( as in maths) and not worth striving for. Indians are thought to be content with what they have and not "aim" for what they do not have.
@Feroz: We are free country we can't have gulags for terrorist forget about Athelstan our HRCI will hang the govt of the day
The moment both india and pakistan do away with the game played by 22 fools(talking of cricket as quoted by bernard shaw),a sea change can unfold in the sports structure,and getting medals in tons,then would a mattter of time.
i am really disappointed by reading the article. Have you ever heard about kalidas and his creations like Ritusanhar or Meghdootam? These text have great description of flora and fauna and geogrphy of India. This piece is so rediculous that i am wondering how it got published.
You need to start with kids of a very young age if progress has to be made in sport. In communist countries the State uses its totalitarian instincts to perform, tactics are moore coercive rather than motivational. The erstwhile Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, East Germany etc were power houses in sport. They used the discipline of the Gulag to train and build champions and spent considerable resources in providing their Athletes World class facilities. In India Academics is priority not sport. Few schools have grounds, facilities or trained Coaches. South Asia will always remain a bit player in competitive sport.
I Strongly recommend that you should start reading Indian history before you comment on it. When you write an article, Dont just make statements without knowing/mentioning the facts and most importantly dont generalize the statements viz., "Most Indians cannot name the trees and birds", "The outdoors is not our space.", "Ours is a culture of servants, of gardeners".
The main motive of a critic is to express a valuable judgement. I am sorry to say that your judgement and reasoning atleast in this article was incorrect.
@shoaib: Rome was not built In a day. There is good progress and hopefully in the coming Olympics India will do better.
@not-an-indian: Sorry but I never said anything about cricket. However I do not agree with your contention that it is not a sport. Agreed cricket was invented by our colonial rulers but then we desis own it in more ways then one.
India’s texts — from Mahabharat to Maasir-i-Alamgiri — have little in them of physical description and of actual nature. There are exceptions, like Ferishta, but they are exceptions.
Let me relate what Thomas Hardy had to say on outdoors. He was describing a fellow travelling the country and says: He could have described the streams, wood, hills etc - but, he says: "nature has not been discovered in those days" So, this love for nature is a recent phenomenon even in the west.
@Akaar - There is definitely a cultural factor to the performance put down by Indians at Olympics and other major events. But you would have done good if you have talked something about growing interest in different sports and physical activities across India. Call it globalization effect or whatever but there is a change taking place. Agreed it is a very slow change and also it's light years behind Western countries and China, but to fail to observe the growing momentum would be a big mistake itself.
Cricket is a conspiracy by english imperialist to keep south asians from compteing in sports.
I am a Pakistani but would say it's more about motivation and recognition,when it comes to achieve more medals in Olympics.In case of both India and Pakistan,we have a huge number of Pan Singh Tomars residing amongst us.For those who don't get it,kindly watch the movie starring Irrfan. I am talking about Tomar since many reknowned athletes in the Subcontinent share his grief.Quite recently,I saw a report about a Pakistani boxer who got medal in international competition,and now he and his family struggles financially.He lives in a poor neighbourhood and can't go to work if law & order situation in the city gets worse.He even said that now the name of Boxing irritates him. We have match fixers too but if they reach international level after watching corruption prevalent in every corner of their society then is it their fault completely?I just remember this dialogue by Emran Hashmi from Jannat (2008) where he convinces a cricketer to indulge in match fixing after telling how different cricket legends are now struggling in their post retirement life and even commiting suicides. When an athlete goes to represent his/her country at Olympics,then he/she always expects love from his people in case of winning a medal;plus a secured future for himself and his loved ones.But that's not a reality these days.And governments aren't interested in sponsoring institutions that could deliver with world class athletes.So why do Desis bother to think about their athlets returning with gold medals when they themselves and their governments didn't invest on the growth and development of these assets?
Just to explain Mr. Aakar Patel some more fine points of winning Olympic medals other than being "getting physical" especially as he directs his point to India and Indians (he is one of them); it took US, 11 Billion dollars to tally more than 100 medals and Chinese similar amounts to get 80 medals over four years. If you are short on cash, as India is, then winning medals is difficult. Still petty $60 millions spent by India on its Olympic athletes has got it 5 medals. Only nations who have ready cash would win the most medals.
Chinese are different they have ready cash for anything which gives them positive publicity. Olympics is one of those events. It is pity that Americans pump $100 billion in China every year as FDI, leaving the Chinese export earnings to finance American wars or finnancial mismanagement, in this case a big tally at the 2008/2012 Olympics.
Come think Mr. Patel and think hard. You would get your answers.
now what is the point of this article in a Pakistani news website???? I think indians should worry about themselves. You want Pakistan to sing about india all the time but its not gonna happen.
@Indian : Right, I forgot about the snide remarks. Thanks for the reminder.
This reminds me of an interview give by late Dara Singh. He told that the main reason of his joining Bollywood was financial as he had seen the fate of Rushtam-e-Hind Pehlwan Gamma. Gamma underwent lots of difficulties in his late years of life. Most Athletes et same fate s Gamma. One can see on YouTube the wrestlers of India and Pakistan selling knives ad other wares at bus stops. I have personally seen the last days of our hockey wizard Dhyan Chand when he was admitted in coma to AIIMS Delhi. Not many know know the post medal lives of these Olympians. No wonder most parents don't encourage their children to take sports as carrier. In my own personal opinion, playing game can never be a carrier. It has to be a side activity to keep physically fit. In my view the full time athletes should not now be allowed to take part in Olympics as that defeats the very purpose of games.
This have been the best olympics for india so far.. hopefully we will do better every olympics..every medal we have won have inspired a generation of kids who would have never even thought of taking up sports .. our sportperson are glorified becuase they inspire us, even though their perfomance may pale in comparison their contemporaries. this is the only way to move forward , by inspiring kids, rather than pushing them into sports just for the sake of it.. Come rio olympics we will do better.. mark my words Mr. Patel
Yes, Its our culture and traditions. In Gujranwala , I saw a banner mentioning a local hero as" Fateh Marathon". This "Fateh Marathon" was actually responsible to cancel Marathon race in Gujranawala.
Come on guys get out of this we are not good enough frame of mind and get off your backsides (both Indians and Pakistanis) and play to win rea sport (and I am not talking of cricket!)
@not-an-indian: we are polite people compared to thin-skinned uppity indians. not too glad to be a punching bag to your insecure selves. indian and pakistani are both big talkers, though indians have taken self-adulation to a delusional height. polite, secure and not deluded: God bless you!!!!!
The size of economy and population and the talk of being the next super-power, India should not be content with just 5 medals and 50th position at the Olympics As with the British press, Indian media also has a habit of over-rating its athletes, With the add. campaign and everything I was expecting a few golds, countries like turkey, Tunisia, Iran and Egypt were able to beat India in the medal race. I don't see anything to appreciate as a whole but the success of individual athletes (those who won the medal) should be appreciated to encourage others to take up the sport.
first thing both PK and india must do is stop taking a leisure activity like cricket seriously. it is not a sport. no body takes it seriously. try footfall for a change if we must really follow our colonial masters.
Ashvinn to earth : irony alert - you are on a pakistani website. We don't discuss india, we don't really care about india except that we want kashmiris to be rid of your unwanted embrace. ET likes to post articles about to attract flies from across the border. it is about the bottom line.
You have such a beautiful pen patel, we just got one more BRONZE.
let us build a bridge on this common trait;)
Now 5 medals, one more bronze in wrestling.
I live in the UK and when I go to sports complex I can tell a desi from a UK-born desi. The UK-born desi swims with grace and a fluency which the desi lacks. It is when it comes to cricket save their honor.
And to many an indian, path to glory includes bashing pakistan relentlessly on pakistani websites. if nothing else, we are polite people compared to thin-skinned uppity indians. not too glad to be a punching bag to your insecure selves. indian and pakistani are both big talkers, though indians have taken self-adulation to a delusional height.
One bronze in Atlanta, one bronze in Sydney, 1 gold and 2 bronze in Beijing and now 4 medals in London (prior to Atlanta only one medal in wrestling and rest in Hockey). If this is not progress then what is it. One really can't compare with China which is a communist country, things they can do India as a free country can never imagine to do that.
Author as usually has reduced his analysis on a few points and doesn't care to go into more details. have a look at a better article on this subject: