India in Rio

If you’ve been following the Olympics, you probably know it’s not been a great year for India. At the time of writing this post, we’ve won only two medals, a silver and bronze, respectively. In fact, looking at the numbers, this is India’s largest contingent of athletes being sent to the Olympics.

From athletes being offered only peanuts for food to Indian politicians strolling around on Rio’s beaches, it’s been a tough and disappointing year. Antics like Vijay Goel’s social media blunders, which include mixing up athlete’s names, photos and misspelling star athletes’ names are just few of the things going wrong this year.

Meanwhile, a nine-member team representing the state of Haryana arrived in Rio “to encourage the Haryana players.” However, the group, led by the state sports minister Anil Vij, has been noticeably absent at key events—even those involving their state’s athletes. Instead they were found sight-seeing and frolicking on Rio’s beaches.

Unfortunately, many of these “gentlemen” flew business class, while the athletes themselves had to endure a 36-hour journey to Rio. One of these athletes was Sprinter Dutee Chand. She did have some choice words for the officials, “If players are treated like this, what kind of performance will we give in (the) Olympics?” she questioned. 
But let’s not put all the blame on the athletes and the rest of the team. We are a part of this problem too. Every four years, at the olympics, we expect our athletes to win us medals on an international platform. However, right after they come back, we don’t care about them anymore.

I’m sure you’ve read cases of previous Indian olympians having to work roadside because the government doesn’t take care of them post retirement. Our athletes are also trained very poorly. sometimes with no equipment. The government cares so less they wouldn’t even bother giving them the proper jerseys, resulting in athletes being disqualified. I mean, really? And perhaps the greatest atrocity, some athletes were even denied physios! If you treat them like trash, you better expect nothing better than trash performances.

A writer named Ainee Nizami wrote a pretty compelling apology to the athletes, so I’m going to quote her to show you what I mean.

“We will start by apologising for the way we treated you on the plane – snatching away business class seats from those of you who needed the comfort the most, and instead allotting it to corporate babus who tagged along on the pretext of cheering you. Yes, someone genuinely thought that they needed to be more comfortable than you, and for that we are extremely sorry. We also need to put in a word of apology for all the seats being taken up by our politicians, and officers, instead of being allocated to your coaches and physiotherapists.

Sorry for not yet being a nation that understands that the Olympics goes far beyond gold, silver, and bronze. For not appreciating the struggle that you put in, just to train everyday, sometimes without any equipment, money, and encouragement. We failed to understand that many of you didn’t even have the resources to own a decent pair of shoes, and yet you have managed to come so far, proving your worth as the best of the best this country has to offer.”

Dealing with this problem will need to begin with acceptance of the harsh reality. Every four years we send our athletes to compete, we only care about numbers of medals. Most of us grew up in privilege, having the ability to buy what we wanted. Most of these athletes didn’t. If we need them to win and make us proud, we better start investing time and money into their cause. We need to aggressively push for reforms in the sports sector, so that the next olympics, we can proudly say that they are OUR athletes. 

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