In about two and a half months from today, Indian athletes will find themselves facing some of the very best from the sporting fraternity in what is arguably the greatest sporting event on earth (Football fans would say otherwise). It will be their chance to achieve the legendary status, to become national icons, to become household names. All the hard work they have put in for the better part of the last 4 years will be tested in one day, and in some cases, over a few days. It’s either make or break.
This is the first time the Olympics are being held in South America. Rio Olympics will start on 5th August and will have its closing ceremony on 21st August. All eyes will be set on China, the USA and European powerhouses, who are tipped to lead the medals tally again. But the question is, can India pull off a surprise and stun the entire sporting fraternity? Can India finally come out of its bubble of underachievement? Are Indian athletes ready enough for Rio 2016?
India will send its largest ever contingent to Rio 2016- a total of 91 competitors will be competing across 46 events over 17 days of breathless action. India will look to improve upon its tally of 6 medals at London 2012. Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the sports ministry are looking at ‘around 10 to 14’ for India at Rio, which is somewhat twice the figure of London 2012. Medals are being expected from events such as shooting, badminton, boxing, tennis, wrestling, golf and archery. Even though the medal tally is expected to rise, is it satisfactory enough for a country touted to be the next superpower (It’s a general observation that all superpowers have fared well at sporting events)?
India first sent a team to Antwerp Olympics in 1920 and has continued to do so ever since. Over a period of 96 years, India has only managed to win only 26 medals out of which 8 are in field hockey. Isn’t that statistic nothing but dismal? In a country with a population of over a billion, it’s not possible to not have a serious talent pool. There’s talent everywhere in this country, all one needs to do is search for it, nurture it, and then see the end products conquer the world. It’s appalling to even think of how all sports barring cricket have been neglected by the authorities. It’s time for the them to wake up and take a look at India’s dismal record over and seriously ponder upon it. The pathetic infrastructure and highly unattractive prospects have not only ashamed us on the international stage, but has also repelled the youth from taking up sports as a career option (again barring cricket). Even though the funding has marginally increased, a lot remains to be done.
While all eyes will be on well-established names like Sania Nehwal, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Yogeshwar Dutt etc. to make the country proud with their endeavours, surprises can be expected from relatively unknown names like Dipa Karmakar, who happens to be the first Indian female gymnast to qualify for the quadrennial event. There will be a lot of expectations from the Indian hockey teams as well, both men and women, the latter having qualified after a gap of 36 years and the former riding high on its Sultan Azlan Shah Cup performances.
Whatever may happen at Rio, one thing is for sure, expectations will be high. For some, it will be the first and the last chance of basking in glory and be memorialized over generations. Else a dark void of obscurity will be waiting for them on the other side. Do they have the nerves to handle the hopes of an entire nation? We shall see. Rio will be ready for them.