Last week while crossing Connaught place, I was surprised to see a large display screen put up to telecast live the semi final match of P.V. Sindhu with Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. It was a pleasant surprise to see a crowd glued to the match, which was NOTcricket. The Twitterati were posting updates of the match every single second.
For the first time in my memory I was seeing a cricket obsessed nation glued to some other sports and cheering all the while. We as a nation looked beyond our only religion - Cricket, and enjoyed the thrilling finish of the badminton match which ensured a silver medal for India.
Momentous change it was for sure !
With the curtains finally drawn on the Rio Olympics, we know for sure that this nation can be equally obsessed with sports other than Cricket. For full 3 weeks we all got our adrenaline rush by watching the performance of some of our star performers like Dipa Karmakar (Gymnastics), Sakshi Malik (Wrestling), P.V. Sindhu (Badminton) and Lalita Babar (Running).
Earlier, the prolonged medal drought was broken by the winning bronze from Sakshi Malik. The win saw a deluge of pun filled and encouraging tweets from the masses as well as bigwigs like Virender Sehwag and Big B provided. The daughters of the nation proved their mettle once again and made us all proud.
The shift from cricket to other sports is gradual but GREAT! The social media is playing a huge role in driving public opinion and making people aware of the need to give our athletes their due. All we need now is the right infrastructure and policy to encourage a sports friendly environment where athletics becomes a sought after career option.
We should learn from Great Britain’s resolve to overhaul their sports strategy after their abysmal performance in 1996 Atlanta Olympics (36th rank, only 1 gold). With focus to regain their glory they worked hard as a nation and finally clinching the 3rd rank with a total of 65 medals in 2012 London Olympics. This year they stood 2nd after US.
We have clinched only two medals this year, but with a refined strategy and right infrastructure Indian athletes can also bring glory to the nation. The huge funds with BCCI should also be diversified for promoting other sports in the nation.
Instead of adopting the corporate culture of giving post performance bonus, we should focus on providing world class training to our our athletes. The government and various other agencies should lay stress on opening more sports academies Also, a robust plan to absorb the retired athletes in training schools would go a long way in providing long term financial security .
Congratulations to our star performers and hope we enter a new era of Indian sports by the next Olympics!