Views & Reviews
Olympic Fever To Olympic Temper
For about 3 weeks beginning July 23 to August 13, the headlines reporting on notoriously infamous Novel Corona Virus Covid-19 pandemic all over the globe was eclipsed by the World famous Olympic fever for a short change. Sports enthusiasts all over the globe have eagerly watched the performance of their favorite star and their country’s performance in winning of Olympic medals. For 1.3 billion Indians the spillover of the Olympic fever have continued for sometime with felicitation and cash awards to the medal winners and participant Olympian having performed ever best Olympic performance winning 7 medals in the Olympic outings since 1900. The first Indian participation in the Olympic was in 1900 at Paris where Norman Pritchard participated and won two silver medals. There was 28 years wait for the next medal and at the Amsterdam Olympic 1928 India won the Gold Medal in Field Hockey and retain the Gold through the1932 Los Angeles, 1936 Berlin, 1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympicsfor straight 6 times. However India lost to Pakistan and settled for Silver Medal in the 1960 Rome Olympic. But in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic, India avenged the defeat of 1960 Rome Olympic and beat Pakistan to reclaim the Gold Medal in hockey.
The last Gold to India in Field Hockey was at Moscow Olympic 1980 which however was lack luster having been boycotted by 66 countries protesting against the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympic witness another boycott call, this time by Soviet Union in retaliation of the boycott of Moscow Olympic 1980 which was boycotted by 16 countries. At the Los Angeles Olympics India lost the shine of the Gold and returned home empty handed, not even a bronze, being relegated to 4th place. After a hiatus of 41 long years draught in Hockey medal, this time again at Tokyo the Indian Hockey saw resurgence and won the bronze medal driving the whole nation into frenzy celebration.
Coming to the end of Indian monopoly of hockey at the Olympic game, the Gold medal prospect for India came to a grinding halt. Indian sports think tank was focused mostly on Hockey, Athletics, Wrestling, till the nineties. The first Olympic Medal for India was two silver medals in Athletics in the 1900 Paris Olympic although won by a European thus Athletics is a pioneer Olympic discipline in India. In 1960, Milkha Singh nick named, Flying Sikh came so close to winning a medal but finished fourth in the 400 meters race with a timing of 45.73 seconds. The finishing of the race was so close that photo finish was referred to adjudge the medal winning. From the photo finish it is clearly seen that the bronze medal winner was thrusting his head forward to reach the finish line whereas Milkha Singh keep his head vertically straight in line with the body and came fourth. Another sensational finish is that of P.T. Usha in the 400 meters hurdle race at 1984 Los Angeles Olympic where she missed the bronze medal by 100th of a second.
The much awaited medal in the track and field events (Athletic) has finally happened with Neeraj Chopra’s Gold in Javelin this time at 2020 Tokyo Olympics vindicating the efforts of the Athletic Federation of India. This time around, the Ministry of YRS under the able leadership of Mr. Kiren Rijuju as the then MOS YRS have invested colossal sum of money endeavouring to get double digit medals in the Tokyo Olympics. The Annual Championship and Training Calendar (ACTC) was compulsorily asked from all Federations and training camps were conducted throughout the year and they sent the team abroad to participate in invitational tournament for exposure and experience. Almost all the individual athletes have gone abroad for coaching training with foreign coach for polishing their finer points. Thus the 7 medals India got were at a high cost and effort both by the Ministry, Federation and the individual athletes and was not a cake walk.
The high medal hope sports disciplines which failed to achieve any medal are Archery and Shooting in spite of doing well and carving out a niche in the world elite group, Deepika Kumari being the World Champion. Women’s Wrestling is the third discipline which too faltered away at the nick of the hour. Men’s boxing is another discipline which was expected to perform well and expected gold medal from World Champion Amit Panghal thus the aim of double digit medal sadly faltered away.
The largest number of athletes to the Tokyo Olympic was from Haryana State with 31 athletes, followed by; Punjab 14, Kerala 9, Tamil Nadu 8, Maharashtra 8, Manipur 5, Orissa 4, Rajasthan 4, Delhi 3, Jharkhand 3, Karnataka 3, West Bengal 3, Andhra Pradesh 2, Gujarat 2, M.P. 2, Telangana 2, Assam 1, Himachal Pradesh 1, Mizoram 1, Sikkim 1, Uttarakhand 1.
Having concluded the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the talk of Olympic fever has died down and now there is talk of Olympic temper. In our own State Million dollar question is being asked why no one from Nagaland could qualify for the Olympics. The criticism of the Sports Department and the Sports Association, the absence of sports culture, lack of State of art infrastructure, fund constraints are the reasons attributed to our State’s failure to produce Olympians, thus the reason for our failure are multiple and cannot point to a single reason. All the reasons attributed are true and valid, which means we are at ground zero.
Bottom line, the need of developing sports culture is of paramount importance. Sports is not a new thing in our state having produced Dr. T. Ao the first Captain of the Indian Football team that went to the London Olympics way back in the year 1948. Nagaland is also one of the pioneer states to have carved out a separate Sports Department dating back to 1978-79 whereas the Ministry of YRS in India was established after the IXTH Asian Games New Delhi 1982 with Mr. Buta Singh as the First Sports Minister with independent charge.
Let us classify the categories of sports for understanding competitive sports culture. Many of us are involved in one or the other kind of sports. We have sports for recreation, sports for physical heath, sports for hobby and sports for time pass, for some. But the kind of sports we are discussing about is competitive sports that is also sub divided into Amateur sports and Professional sports. We are unfortunate to be at ground zero in comparison with other states in India whereas sports is multibillion dollar business the world over today. However, in our own context, we do have something to reckon with, although not in the state of the art position. We Naga’s are football lovers therefore every village tries to have a football playing field even in remote villages and basketball board here and there. Besides the football field, we also find volleyball ground in different localities in the village. Thus the villagers/community creates basic playing field for the development of sports at grass root level. Unconsciously the community involvement is the right way of approach which should be encouraged and supported by the Sports Department and the Associations. Sports not necessarily begins from the State of the Art infrastructure but from basic play field/infrastructure at the grass root level. The marathon runners from Kenya start running from the school going age on dirt road. Every morning they run 20-25kms from their home to the school and after school they run back to their home as daily routine that automatically helps develop the sports culture by default and they then become Olympic champions. However, sports culture cannot be a mass movement without relative avenues, opportunity for earning a livelihood and a future through sports. Naga’s are essentially agrarian community devoid of any ancillary business therefore without any future prospects it will be suicidal to opt for mass sports culture. As sports administrator in the Association, I have worked many years in collaboration with the Sports department in talent search and coaching of children of below 13 years of age and sub juniors all round the year. It is a fact that sharp and brainy children learn faster and play better brain game than their average friends. Such children are also good in their studies and from class IX onwards they will drop out from the game and concentrate on their studies and once they pass out of class X they will completely quit the sports and all the meritorious students will enrol in Science stream aiming to take up technical education as planned by the parents as there are no opportunities to earn a livelihood through sports in our State.
Our Chief Minister has announced a new sports policies that is understood to be in the final stages and to be released which is expected to contain new vision and more result oriented program in attaining the national standard and beyond. There could be high priority sports, priority sports, recreational sports, sports for hobby and health. Our approach should be directed towards suitability of the right type of sport to our physical stature, biological built of our body so as to attain excellence without any unplanned disadvantage. In the recently concluded Tokyo Olympic we have very clearly observed the kind of people and race, color and physical built, the country that have dominated the particular type of game. Let us learn from them and pick up the kinds of sport that would suit us. The state sports planner should have a clear objective and road map for development of sports in the State. The progress and achievement of the State in sports is not measured by the number and the kind of sports infrastructures built up in the state but by the number of medals won at the National Games that is held every 2 years. Qualification for the National games is on the basis of reaching quarter finals in the Senior National championship of the particular sport discipline. Many sports fans are confused and presume that World Cup is the biggest sporting event whereas it is a single game competition and carries one gold medal only and cannot compare with the Olympic mantle which is a multidimensional Competition. Tokyo Olympics offered a total of 339 gold medals with Athletics alone offering 49 gold medals whereas our fancied football offers only 1 gold. I am trying to come to the point that our priority should be focused in such sports where more medal prospects are available. Team games like football, Volleyball, Basketball, etc. have only one gold medal prospect but individual games like athletics, badminton, Table tennis, Tennis, shooting, body contact games have medal prospects for every individual athlete. Practically speaking, it is very difficult to produce a team where all the players in the team have to be equally good to balance the game but in the individual game, development and training and the shine of the individual itself is a medal prospect. There is also equal opportunity for both the competitor in the body contact games where the contest is on the basis of body weight category. The one very important consideration is whether the game we can adapt to is included in the list of Olympic Sports or not.
Preparing and producing a podium target Athlete is a long strenuous, tidy and costly process. There is no miracle or short cut in sports achievementbut sheer effort, dedication and hard work that makes the champion. The only luck in the game is getting a weak opponent in the draw in the first round. In Athletics, the Athletes slug on long 10 -15 years laborious training, beating the sweat and brow for a sudden short explosion of 15 seconds peak moment. Among the human resources development spheres, sports presents a complexity of scientific planning, investment, infrastructure, management, training and development, nurturing, grooming, harnessing from grass roots level to polishing at the creamy layer involving, coaches, physio, masseur, trainer, medico, dietician, administrator, staffer, photo analyst, psychologist, back up team, maintenance and up keeps etc, etc. Sports being a multibillion dollar industry today, tremendous research and analysis has been done in sports development, physical and biological aspect, material boost and state of the art infrastructural development. The old adage “Practice makes one perfect” is no longer valid today and is transcended to “Right practice makes one perfect.” If Sports is to be taken seriously, the working system along with the funding pattern of the YRS Department of the State Government should be totally overhauled and place the department in the true sense of Youth (human) Resources Development and treat the Department at par with the other developmental department. Adequate initiative of sports technical aspects, infra structure creation, setting up of appropriate sports academies, development of sports at grass root level, roping in of Sports Associations with proper funding, Funding of Inter District Championship of priority sports are the areas to be seriously considered to produce the desired results. The YRS Department is usually allocated Rs. 100 lakhs annually by the State Govt. for dispensing token grant in aids to 26 Sports Associations and 11 District Sports Councils for development of Sports activities. It is a pathetic truth that if you offer peanuts you will get only monkeys in return, but in our state we will not get even monkeys as we have eaten them up all. As long as the present policy, practices and approach of the State Govt. continues, the YRS Department, the Associations and the Athletes shall not be able to carry out the ACTC sporting activities how serious they may contemplate. In the absence of any Industries and Business houses in the State unlike other States, we have no scope and opportunity to avail CSR funding so our only hope and sources is the State Government funding therefore with the current funding pattern sports we would not see much hope and progress. The state political think tank should usher a shift in the State sports policy and the funding pattern, prepare podium target sports development roadmap and go full throttle that within 5-10 years we produce National Champions and within 10 -15 years we produce Olympian which is not impossible if we are sensible. Till now no agency has conducted any Sports SWOT analysis of our youths therefore all sports talents remain untapped and unexplored letting it die and be buried in the unmarked cemetery.
T. Meren Paul
President, Nagaland Amateur Boxing Association.
Former Secretary General, Nagaland Olympic Association
Former General Secretary, Nagaland Badminton Association
Former Vice President and Acting President, Boxing India