India Went For GOLD - By Lokesh Varma
The Games of the XXVII Olympiad, the biggest ever sporting spectacle the world has ever seen has finished. 16 glorious days in which the event's motto - Stronger, Higher and Faster was echoed throughout the 28 sports in which competition took place and resulted in many new records being created.
Amidst all the glitterati and confetti, the smiling volunteers, the pricey tickets and the transport arrangements that moved in excess of a quarter of million people every day, for me as an Indian, one thought remained at the back of my mind. India's performance.
India finished the game with a grand total of 1 medal. Same as the Atlanta 1996 Games. Nothing had changed. Down to the colour of the medal. Ah, but the cynics should be reminded of Malleswari's performance. It was the first time, an Indian female, had won an Olympic medal. Never ever, pre or post-Independence had an Indian woman won something at the Olympics. Incidentally let it be reminded, that it was the first time only at the Atlanta Games that an Indian had won a medal while competing individually. It's not as if the eight hockey gold medals won don't count anymore. It's just that they were won in a time before time.
Nothing can change the fact that ever since the last of the gold medals, two factors have increased. Both highlighting the nature of sporting achievement in our country. Our population and the amount we spend on sport. And the results that we have to show for this are not the two bronze medals but the self-denial that we put ourselves through. Like the high-ranking Indian official who was interviewed on radio prior and after the games. Prior to the games, the mood was upbeat with upto four medals expected. After the games, the demeanour was apologetic. "We are the sorry for India's performance." Sorry for what? Rarely are their athletes like Kieren Perkins who are moved by the gloriousness of the event to produce spectacular performances. Usually, the writing is on the wall and standings in the world confirmed before the Olympics.
Or maybe he was apologising for our psyche. Our mental attitude. In which there is no place for winning while being sporting. Just like the Gold medal hopeful Indian hockey team that went on a Sydney Harbour cruise the night before their crucial game against South Korea. The cruise finished at 12 midnight, and the boys would have returned home sometime after. Losing 2-0, the only game they lost in the tournament, might well have sealed India's 7th position in the Olympics.
The final nail in the coffin was not watching India compete in many different events. It was watching India's best or supposed best competing against the world best in heats and first rounds, and watching them come last.
Day 8 of the Games could have been different. Said the Official Olympic Daily guide, that India was competing in the gold medal and the bronze medal game. Best Case: a gold and a bronze. Worst case: a silver medal. So what if the sport was Badminton and their names sounded rather exotic. When the time came, both Hendrawan and Xia Xuanze would been taken into the hearts of the winner-less Indian population.
The celebrations however, never commenced. The SOCOG organisers were guilty of an abominable sin sin. Causing the hearts of at least two Indians to beat faster, flutter and then flounder. With a subtle misrepresentation of INO or INU or whatever Indonesia is represented by with IND, they had managed to achieve what a nation of 1 billion plus had failed to do