Why does India win so few Olympic medals?

A loyal MR reader writes to me:

Here’s an interesting fact: despite a
population of more than 1 billion, India has won a grand total of 18 Olympic medals (mostly in field hockey):


there are many obvious hypotheses, all of which may be partially
right, yet one would think these apply to zillions of other countries that
nevertheless have non-trivial Olympic presences.

So what is it?

My guess would be lack of government subsidies, combined with the possibility that non-democratic, authoritarian governments feel greater need to prove themselves on the international stage and to their people at home.  The subsidies matter for the infrastructure as much as for the athletes.  Throw in low social mobility, nutrition problems, and the relative lack of TV to inspire the young ‘uns and you’ve got my answer.  Bad roads don’t help any either.  Does this query have any other takers?

Here are some different yahoo attempts at an answer.  Here is a Guardian article.  Anirudh Krishna and Eric Haglund have a whole paper on the topic of social mobility.


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