Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is it Common Wealth or con our wealth games!

Nine lakhs for a treadmill, eight thousand for a chair, a refrigerator for fourty thousand, four lakhs for an air conditioner. I can assure you that inflation has not gone through the roof nor are these rates quoted in Zimbabwean Dollar. But what gets my goad is that these are not even buy prices but ‘give it back to me’ rental prices for two months. So much so for getting our own rupee symbol last month. I am sure these figures will look good with the new symbol but it really hurts to know that these numbers somehow tie back to the tax money that went out of my pocket.

Welcome to the Commonwealth Games, Delhi, 2010. The fireworks have already started, allegations are flying thick and fast and it’s still not opening day. But one look at the common wealth of nations and you see a list of countries that hold no sway in the current milieu. I am not sure what’s the fruit in competing against countries like Barbados, Belize and Botswana. Beats me! Oh wait. No, on second thought, we might still not be able to come on top of the medals table. It’s like calling your old bar buddies, from your blackjack days and treating them to three fortnights of fun and frolic in your backyard. And I sure the wife’s not happy at all. She wants you to focus on the rising prices and the unruly neighbour.

I was always of the opinion that we are not a sports country. To start with, there is very little support we get at home to play a sport recreationally, forget about sports as a career option. A lot of this stems from the preponderance of the parents towards pushing their wards to have a crack at the entrance exams rather than at an opponent or a team. Further our schools also see it as just a leisure activity, one ‘games’ period in a week, and behave no different from the authorities at home in their commitment towards sports. As a result, the two institutions which should act as the cradle of sports fail us.

Once into adolescence, we do take up sports, but again as a distraction to steer our mind away from back breaking homework we get from school. Or if mom gets too worked up because of our pestering she would ask us to get lost for an hour or two. Now, in the company of similarly challenged kids from the colony, we don’t really get the kind of exposure which makes champion sportsmen, but rather fist fight and abuse leads us crawl back into our homes. And as time passes it is not long before we stand at the cross roads of choosing whether it would be science or math, for bread and butter, and say our final goodbyes to the ground beneath our feet. The thinkers of our land suggest that talent needs to be discovered early on and nurtured through proper training and support all through. But in a land where the parents are discussing if it’s going to be Yale in the summer or Carnegie in the fall, even before the spermatozoa and ova have fused, leaves no space for the little guy to play around once he is out and about.

Next in line is the attitude of the sponsors or the so called marketers of professional sport. They spare obscene amount of money for the Dhoni’s and the Sachin’s but not a thought for that unknown guy in the track and field event. Actually, I don’t know his name either and that’s because the sponsors never streamed him live into my living room. But let’s not spill all the venom on the sponsor because they only feed us what we love to gorge on. Which puts us in the spotlight and the million dollar question is - why don’t we like anything other than cricket? I know its clichéd, but so it is true that we don’t like any other sport so much, to watch or play, and if the marketers are only keen to sponsor what we like and if supposedly with their support we can bring about the change in the state of other sports in the country, this question is very relevant. I am of the opinion that, universally, contact sports (boxing, rugby, football, basket ball) are more popular along with ball and stick ones (baseball, cricket, tennis) and followed by the speedsters (F1). I am not saying that this is the norm because I contradict myself by pointing that Judo as a contact sport, snooker as a stick and ball game and MotoGP as a racing sport has not made us as crazy as the previous examples. I am trying to deep dive into our psyche to understand that if given a chance, to watch or play, why we end up choosing boxing and not judo, cricket over long jump and F1 but not swimming. Why some sports will make us spend top money to buy tickets and some we don’t want to watch even if it comes free on national television. If we get answers to these questions we can steer the big guys to focus on the bottom feeders and give them some premium treatment.

Somewhere in all those questions lies our answer to why we languish, if not at the bottom, of the medals table at every international meet. And rather than understanding the basic psyche of our outlook towards sports, how many of us would really watch the games on television let alone go to a stadium, we have brought home a jamboree, which is more about showcasing our organizing skills rather than our sporting prowess. And now looking at the graft charges, sub standard stadiums and incomplete infrastructure I am not sure how many medals will we get even for our organizing expertise. The ideal alternative would be to spend this money in upgrading the sporting infrastructure, starting from schools but not ending with SAI. But again swanky stadiums and hi-tech equipments will not bring the best in us until we get our motivation towards sports right. Somewhere in us lies a gene which abhors the thought of venturing into professional sports and is satisfied with a nine to six job, which pays handsomely enough to buy a flat screen and DTH and enjoy a game of cricket at home.

It’s good news that the guys in Delhi have said no to the Asian Games in 2019. Hopefully the inflation will not take away the gains from this move by then.

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