The hype that can backfire India’s Olympic hopes badly

These glamourised advertisements raise false hopes and expectations among the masses

By   |  Harpal Singh Bedi  |  Published: 21st Jul 2021  8:55 pm

New Delhi: Sports fans watching advertisements on Sony TV in which Bollywood super stars Amitabh Bachan, Akshay Kumar, IOC member Neeta Ambani, Union Law Minister (till recently Sports minister) Kiren Rijiju, Sports minister Anurag Thakur , industrialist Sajjan Jindal, Gen Bipin Rawat and other luminaries are exhorting Indian sportspersons taking part in the Tokyo Olympics to “Go for Gold’.

Now obviously these celebrities are reading the script prepared by some bright kids of a PR company. They are also raising their fists, which they assert is their victory punch, shouting Jai Hind and in the process needlessly raising the expectations of the millions of viewers.

So far so good. However, the problem arises that out of 18 disciplines India is participating, it has virtually no chance in 10 of them and in two others they have outside chances.

Notwithstanding these glamourised advertisements which raise false hopes and expectations among the masses, it puts further pressure on the sportspersons.

Most of Olympic-bound Indian sportspersons have barely qualified, meaning they just managed to make the cut by crossing the minimum standard set by the International Olympic Committee along with the International Sports Federation of that discipline.

In simple terms it is like securing 33 percent marks, which helps a student to pass ten plus two examinations but getting a seat in the collage is almost ruled out as he is pitted against those who have 80 to 85 percent marks.

Over the years the Indian contingent has grown and now at Tokyo India will be fielding its largest squad so far.

Indians will be taking part in Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Equestrian, Fencing, Golf, Gymnastic, Hockey (M/W) Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling.

It would have been nice if the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) had not raised the expectations. Sometimes predictions go haywire as sport is full of glorious uncertainty. But to expect debutant fencer Bhavani Devi to be part of the glorious uncertainty folklore is making mockery of this cliché.

Bhavani, whose mother Ramani Sudharararaman will accompany as a manager along with a coach and Psychologist, is still in a daze after being told that she made it to the Olympics and the Nation has been told to pray for her success.

India’s best showing in the Olympics has been in 2012 at London where the country won six medals– two silver and four-bronze. The Rio Olympics was a big letdown as country just managed two medals at the last stages of the games. One bronze by wrestler Sakshi Malik and a silver by shuttler PV Sindhu.

India’s realistic chances of medal are in Shooting (15), Wrestling,(7) Boxing (9) and men’s hockey. In simple terms India has good chance of improving on their London medal count provided the shooters, boxers, wrestlers and the lone weightlifter repeat their pre- tournament performances.

So finally, taking into account India’s chances was it necessary to build such hype. As it is said let performance speak. So let us pray for their success.

(Harpal Singh Bedi is a former Sports correspondent of UNI)


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