Why does India win so few Olympic medals?

by on August 16, 2008 at 6:43 am in Sports | Permalink

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):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_at_the_Olympics

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.

Alexei McDonald August 16, 2008 at 7:49 am

Because cricket is no longer an Olympic sport, and that’s where the prestige and conseqently where the big money is in Indian sport.

Rory Sutherland August 16, 2008 at 8:00 am

This is entirely the wrong question to ask.

the right questions are

1) Why is cricket not an Olympic sport – and has not been one since 1900? It is patently more popular, more widespread (and more pleasing to watch) than almost any current Olympic event?

2) Why do all other countries obsess about sport, even to the point of subsidising it, when it is an immense waste of human effort and attention? Maybe Indians are simply too intelligent to care – or prefer to spend their time on better things, such as perfecting the world’s greatest cuisine.

3) Horrifically from 2012 baseball will not be an Olympic sport either – so the bunch of crooks who run the Olympics will have banished the world’s two great bat & ball sports. Genius!

TheMatt August 16, 2008 at 8:39 am

Rory,

In re cricket, one problem is that until recently, there wasn’t really a form of cricket that would be viable for the modern day Olympics. Five-day test cricket is, of course, impossible. They’d never repeat the two-day cricket of 1900. Even one-day cricket would be hard to do unless the Games were held in a country that had a *lot* of cricket grounds.

However, with the remarkable advent of Twenty20 cricket, there is a *big* push to get it into the, you guessed it, 2020 Olympics. And I think it might actually work. Sure, it’s not “true” cricket, even in the sense that one-day is, but it’s fast-paced and would allow more countries to field teams. Plus, you can get it 2.5x more cricket in the same amount of time as you do in one-day (20 overs v. 50 overs…yeah, I gots mad math skillz). That would allow for 2, maybe 3 matches on a ground per day…assuming the pitches could sustain that abuse. (Maybe go with artificial surfaces?)

Plus, Delhi is currently mounting a big push for the 2020 Games. Since India is the epicenter of Twenty20, I’m fairly certain their selection as host would boost the chances immensely. Lord knows they have enough cricket grounds to host an Olympic tourney.

Geek Athlete August 16, 2008 at 9:10 am

Simple explanation: India is the nation of geeks.

In our facebook profile pictures, I’m holding a sword, my sister is in a boat, another guy is buff and shirtless, etc. We all do this because it makes us look cool.

I also have a few Indian friends: one of them actually has a profile photo showing him wearing a suit while using a computer in an office environment. He too does this to look cool, albeit to his friends at home.

With such a culture, is it really surprising that there aren’t too many athletes?

(Note: I’m not criticizing, I’m a geek myself and can spread pwnage in 1/2life. Just pointing out this aspect of their culture.)

gb August 16, 2008 at 9:43 am

Let’s get this clear. India’s underachievement in olymics exagerrates its athletic/sporting failure. If you look at tier-2 athletic events (asian games, commonwealth games, afro-asian games), India performs pretty much in line with expectations — usually in the top 6-10 in asian games (behind china, japan, korea etc.) and top 4-5 in commonwealth games. What really happens is that when you graduate from tier-2 to tier-1 competition the change in standards at the top (think fractions of seconds and fractions of centimeters) is dramatic and overcoming the difference requires massive training and investment. Naturally india can’t afford that. Add to that the decreasing marginal returns on added investments when you are at that level of competition ($1mm might improve your 100m dash from 11.5 secs to 11s but it won’t take you from 11 to 10.5s). So the cost becomes unbearable, unless you are china and its a matter of making a point. Add to that the strategic angle. There are at least 3-4 sports where india could have nevertheless completed clean sweeps over the years — chess (at least rapid chess), billiards, snooker, all dominated by india for last 20-30 yrs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBSF_World_Billiards_Championship) . But none are olympic sports. But yes, fencing with all its remarkable spectator friendliness is. Its impossible to say how india will perform in the future, but one thing you can say is that if india is capable and willing to make that additional final bit of investment the conversion of the tier-2 performers into tier-1 performers could be pretty rapid.

One more thing, though its totally unrelated to sports/olympics — its hard to understand why the west, especially western educated indians (even though i’ll have to count myself as one of them) are so obsessed with linking everything to the caste system/social immobility. Nobody would deny its a problem, but it allows people to pass off completely spurious and senseless theories because somehow everything wrong with india has something to do with the caste system. Don’t other countries suffer from vast socio-economic discrimination? How come american sports is dominated by black athletes when they don’t exactly benefit from huge social mobility?

Brian August 16, 2008 at 10:00 am

Genetics may also play a part. Sorry to offend, but it must be considered.

Kenyans have won lots of medals (61 actually), and they don’t have good roads, tv, or East German-style athlete farms either.

Yes, cricket dominates there, but no more than baseball and football dominate the US.

Prasant C August 16, 2008 at 10:17 am

It is precisely the population of 1 billion that is responsible for the poor showing at the Olympic games. Reasons are:

- The population explosion has increased the opportunity cost of pursuing sports as a career. To excel at any sport, it is necessary to dedicate yourself to it for years. If today, a kid decides to pursue a sport full time, down the line he/ she will not have the opportunity to catch up with the other kids who have been busy studying advanced math etc that would train them to be doctors or engineers. It is only the best of the lot that end up having well paying jobs. India has abt 50 million people who are unemployed right now. It is more than likely that he/ she will end up working a job that barely pays enough to support a family.
- The population has made the race to the top extremely competitive and the criteria for measurement is the kid’s aptitude in math/sciences for the most part. Sports are meant only for recreation – that too if you have some time left over from studying.

People will invariably argue that China has been excelling at Olympics despite its population being larger than India’s. They should not forget the emphasis that the Government of China places on good showing at that stage. This is severely lacking in India.

Population is an important reason for the poor showing, but hardly the only one.

Matt August 16, 2008 at 10:31 am

Concerning the first comment, contention two: this is the wrong way to look at sport in society. Sport, sex as an enterprise, entertainment and popular culture in general develop after the necessities are handled in a general sense. If a nation struggles to feed its people on a daily basis, lacks proper roads and sanitation, training an Olympic-caliber athlete in any sport becomes more challenging than the actual Games. The issues pointed out by the author are great indicators of why India can’t develop elements of culture — in this case, sports.

We’re culturally obsessed with a lot of things, but nobody I’ve ever met is so obsessed with everything. Some do love sports, where sometimes people make headlines for their obsession. But the same happens when people become obsessed with sex, drugs or even religion to some degree. People will always be around to criticize the hobbies of others, but isn’t that the point of a free market system? Choices?

I do wonder one thing about India’s lack of medals. Many of the athletes from the Olympics, regardless of the nation they are representing are attending universities in the US. Some are actually just stretching their connection to the home country, but many have been in the states since being identified as gifted in a given sport. Maybe we’re just not scouting India for athletes enough, we certainly aren’t ignoring the academic talent.

jc August 16, 2008 at 12:23 pm

I would say a major reason is because of the mostly vegetarian based diet that Hindu (and other religions in India) followers, in which the typical diet provides less protein then say the diet of other countries. Muslims in India consume meat, however the Muslim population in India tend to be generally poorer which reduces the number of participants which could participate in sports.

dearieme August 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I’d congratulate India on its good sense in spurning the arid vulgarity of the Olympics while contrubuting so much to the game they play in Heaven.

Karthick August 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm

My current Gtalk status msg is “Swimmer Michael Phelps has won more medals than either India or Mexico in those countries’ respective cumulative histories”
In India, sports is not given any chance. It is culture , i think. When a kid shows some interest in sports, parents stop him “Hey, only if you study well, u can earn lot”. Cricket is the only “paying” sport right now in India and i see lot of parents encourage cricket “interest” in children. Other sports don’t have bright future in India.Also, for many individuals, it is a question of survival. Food or 100m dash?

k August 16, 2008 at 1:55 pm

India won 6 times ina row hockey gold medal

Sundeep August 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm

There’s a version of cricket out there which would suit the Olympics even more than Twenty20 or ODIs: the Sixes. It was created and popularized in Hong Kong, an Olympic venue. It would require little investment, as Hong Kong hosts an annual tournament anyway, and is immensely enjoyable.

Nutritional issues and low social mobility haven’t stopped countries like Azerbaijan, North Korea, Cuba, Belarus and Zimbabwe. The lack of TV is not an issue for cricket, where national team members are idolized.

I wonder if India is not funding Olympic development because it would be hard to compete with nations like the US, China, Russia and Australia. It would take decades to bring India to the same level. As such, there are better, more immediate payoffs in other sports, including tennis, hockey and golf.

razib August 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

too much fasting :-)

Anonymous August 16, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Perhaps, they just aren’t as interested in sports in general. Why doesn’t the USA perform well in Soccer? Would you be looking for socio-economic explanations while not ruling out the obvious? I think India has a relative disinterest in sport and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

spencer August 16, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Foobarista has it. The reason that India does not do much in the Olympics is that no one is willing and able to spend the millions of dollars it would cost to develop and train the jocks.

That is why Russia and the Eastern Europeans use to do much better than they do now — the state no longer spends a fortune developing the athletes.

You have a few runners from Africa and, guess what, it does not take much money to train a few long distance runners.

Simple economics. You get what you pay for.

Steve Sailer August 16, 2008 at 5:06 pm

In 2000, I wrote:

Once again, however, the biggest loser in the Olympics was India. For the second straight Games, its one billion people brought home – a single bronze medal.

Indians just don’t seem to care about any sports besides cricket. Even in field hockey, a game they ruled through the middle of the 20th Century, they stunk up the place again.

Perhaps Indians are just too cheerful, friendly, and polite to care much about winning at sports. Interestingly, their few sportsmen tend to come from the traditional warrior racial groups like the Sikhs. The British recognized that the Sikhs, along with the East Asian Gurkhas of Nepal, made the finest fighting men in South Asia. Sikhs remain the backbone of independent India’s officer corps. Similarly, guys named Singh (i.e. Sikhs) hold about half of India’s national track records.

It’s long been theorized that militaristic nations should be best at sports, since sport is fundamentally training for and recreation from fighting and hunting. This correlation, however, has proved hard to test since practically every nation on Earth has a pugnacious history. Ancient nations that didn’t like war tended to be put to the sword.

The most obvious exceptions: the peoples of India, who have repeatedly been the passive victims of invaders. So perhaps there is something to this old saw after all.

Steve Sailer August 16, 2008 at 5:25 pm

By the way, the only golfer in the world in this decade to knock Tiger Woods off the #1 ranking was Vijay Singh in 2004-2005. Singh is an ethnic Indian (Sikh) from Fiji. He’s won more PGA tournaments since he turned 40 than Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer did combined.

Singh is also, by far, the darkest-skinned player on the PGA Tour (much darker than Tiger), yet you almost never ever hear about him in the American press as “breaking racial boundaries,” “subverting stereotypes,” or otherwise bringing the blessings of diversity to white-bread golf. That just goes to show that race isn’t, actually, about skin color, it’s about ancestry. And it also shows that Americans aren’t interested in race in general, they’re just obsessed with black-white questions.

Steve Sailer August 16, 2008 at 5:44 pm

One interesting development is the growing prominence of whites representing black countries, most notably swimmer Kirsty Coventry, who represents Zimbabwe (she’s lived in America for years, although she retains a slight Rhodesian accent). She’s won seven of Zimbabwe’s eight medals.

Last night in the men’s 100m butterfly famously won by Michael Phelps by 0.01 seconds (i.e., it’s a Big Time event), the fifth place finisher, behind Ian Crocker, was Jason Dunford, a rich white kid from Kenya.

brainwarped August 17, 2008 at 12:39 am

Steve Sailer – I wondered the same thing about golf. I came to the conclusion that the press did not care that VJ wasn’t white because Tiger was the first. Being the second to break racial barriers IS NOT as important as the first because the first proves that it is possible.

As far as economic incentives are concerned, I would think that there is a huge market for sports in India due to the lack of sports currently. All an Indian needs to do is get really good at a sport, come to America to compete, and get sponsored by Indian companies. This will start a trend for young people to get good at sports. Just look at the Dominican Republic with peloteros.

I think we have narrowed it down to cultural or genetic at this point…

gb August 17, 2008 at 2:51 am

I think the two main points continue to be diet and culture, but again we really need to define sporting performance more broadly than simply olympic performance. Regarding steve sailer’s mention of sikhs, i think we need some corrections on that. He points to an important fact but more broadly, vast majority of india’s top sportsman come from just 4-5 states out of the 30 or so — primarily haryana, punjab and north-east. What makes this more interesting is that all these states are far less vegetarian, bigger meat consumers (esp punjab and northeast) than much of rest of india. Also, all people with surname Singh are not sikhs. Singh is used as surname primarily by almost all Kshatriyas – the ancient warrior caste. Sikhs are subset of them who are all extracted from some earlier Kshatriya clans. Vijay Singh is no sikh. A Hindu married to a Hindu in fact. Neither are most other Singhs. Even many non kshatriyas, especially shudra castes (artisans, metal workers etc.) also took the name singh in later times.

Also, Sundeep’s point about the political angle is very interesting. Though i think it probably helps keep pakistan disinterested more than it affects india.

jmws August 17, 2008 at 4:53 am
The Goddess August 17, 2008 at 2:55 pm

India — Population: 1,129,866,154
China — Population: 1,321,851,888

India should really be doing better – it has only ever won 15 medals

http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRM/ENG/BIO/NOC/IND.shtml

Medals per sport
Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total
Hockey 8 1 2 11
Shooting 0 1 0 1
Tennis 0 0 1 1
Weightlifting 0 0 1 1
Wrestling – Freestyle 0 0 1 1
Total 8 2 5 15

Versus

ETHOPIA — Population: 78,254,090

Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total
Athletics 14 5 12 31
Total 14 5 12 31

And

CHINA

Medals per sport
Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total
Archery 0 4 0 4
Athletics 5 3 5 13
Badminton 8 4 10 22
Basketball 0 1 1 2
Boxing 0 0 1 1
Canoe/Kayak – Flatwater 1 0 0 1
Cycling – Track 0 1 1 2
Diving 20 13 5 38
Fencing 1 5 1 7
Football 0 1 0 1
Gymnastics – Artistic 13 14 11 38
Gymnastics – Trampolining 0 0 1 1
Handball 0 0 1 1
Judo 5 2 7 14
Rowing 0 2 2 4
Sailing 0 2 0 2
Shooting 14 9 11 34
Softball 0 1 0 1
Swimming 6 12 3 21
Table Tennis 16 11 6 33
Taekwondo 3 0 0 3
Tennis 1 0 0 1
Volleyball 2 1 1 4
Weightlifting 16 10 8 34
Wrestling – Freestyle 1 0 0 1
Wrestling – Greco-Roman 0 0 3 3
Total 112 96 78 286

The Truth August 17, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Most athletes who win an Olympic medal start their training still during their high school years. In the U.S. public high schools have swimming pools, track and field areas, soccer, baseball fields, and almost every other sport one may want to participate in. Different from almost every other country in the world, who cannot or simply do not support such expenditure. Likewise is the situation during college period.

Thus most Olympic athletes come to the U.S. for training, where not only their is an outstanding structure for practice, but their is also leagues who compete against each other, pushing athletes further — something that other countries also lack.

India has no structured governmental expenditure in sports for teenagers during their high school or college years. Their university is focused in technology development, not sports competition.

That is why when a third world country wins a golden medal, their athlete cries. He/ her had much more to give up and barriers to face so to get their hands on that medal than an average developed country citizen.

Sunita August 18, 2008 at 12:23 am

Lack of social mobility (but nothing to do with caste system) is the answer for dismal performance of India’s performance. There are two ways to excel in sports:
1: State support (Government subsidized training)
2: US Way-Self funded with corporate endorsements
And of course, that cluster of knowledge needs to be there to excel in sports. It takes 15 years of training to make a champion. I don’t see anyone out of 300 million middle class sending their kids for 6 hr per day routine for 15 years which is really sad.It is sad,because same parents can invest that kind of time for arts/cultural pursuits. Sania Mirza is great example. First within 100 ATP ranked indian tennis player.Her father made her play tennis since she was 6. Now at 18- she has reached career best ATP 30 rank. So only will of Indian parents is required for india to get more olympic medals. Indian middle class can *now* very well afford private world class training for their kids. But are parents listening?
Regarding lack of social mobility-If some region starts producing champions,then knowledge transfer takes place and soon center of excellence are born.
US sent ~650 athletes. 70 of them are from bay area or specifically have ties to Stanford. This is power of social network. When everyone is an olympian around you, it seems very doable to be an Olympian oneself

JM August 18, 2008 at 2:56 am

Sunita:

While the two methods you listed certainly help, they are not the exhaustive list. You forgot to include natural talent which may override deficiencies in the two you listed. On the flip side, lack of such natural talent could render fruitless any such organized efforts. Indians do seem to lack in abundant athletic talent.

That said, I agree with you and I do think there are some events where one does not need strength, speed or stamina to excel that Indians could try seriously. These are the low hanging fruit that can be exploited for getting medals. There are probably legions of Bollywood dancers and choreographers in India. They could probably put together a pretty good synchronized swimming effort. Other events that require concentration and body control rather than tremendous power and strength could be events in which Indians could try to compete and excel. India’s yoga heritage will definitely help. The air gun guy picked one such sport and won. Archery could be another. Diving could be yet another, but it is more expensive to build facilities on a widespread scale to pick budding stars.

A-ro August 18, 2008 at 8:17 am

There doesn’t have to be a reason; it could just be random luck. At least a few countries will perform “well below expectations” in any worldwide comparison.

KM August 18, 2008 at 11:18 am

Why does Bangalore have bad traffic? It must be the Caste system, of course. Seriously, what causes otherwise rational westerners to bring up the Caste system whenever something, almost anything, about India is discussed?

Back to the point of discussion

I’d hypothesize that:

- Most things that are Government run in India are downright pathetic. Most Olympic sports are run by kleptocratic “associations” under government patronage. Most of the money (a pittance, in relative terms), disappears you-know-where.

- Becoming an Olympic medalist is hardly an aspiration for most of the population. People aspire to anything that makes them rich, or famous, or powerful, or preferably all three: politics, cricket, technology, business and the like. There isn’t much money in becoming an Olympic athlete, at least not yet.

- Indians haven’t been dealt a great genetic hand. This wouldn’t be an absolute killer problem, but it definitely doesn’t help. There are fewer “freaks” who can rise above the additional barriers.

These three combine into a perfect storm of sorts for India. Most successful countries do well at one or preferably more of the trio of the system, aspiration, and genetics.

Things could change:

- Wherever private initiative is involved, things do look better. Abhinav Bindra could afford a shooting range in his farmhouse that happened to be better than the best government run shooting range, and pay for the best coaches, and train in Europe. Look where that got him. Now how could such facilities be made available to the talented but not-quite-so-rich?

- Vishwanathan Anand got to GM-dom in chess outside the “system”. The chess “system” in India improved dramatically afterward. A lot of kids (or their parents) began to aspire to be chess players as well.

Sid August 18, 2008 at 1:10 pm

All the genetic scientists here need to check what they are saying.

Raj Bhavsar is a member of US Men’s gymnastic team that won bronze. Men’s gymnastics is the most gruelling competition in the Olympic roster. Raj is ethnically 100% Indian stock. Here’s his bio….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raj_Bhavsar

singh007 August 18, 2008 at 1:55 pm

I used to be quite good at football,I was in excellent physical condition at one time in secondary school, I also won two finals in the all India school level football[soccer]with my team, my school had the best training facilities.At one time I thought of playing proffesional football but then football is zero in India
I thought of going to europe, my parents asked me to name how many football players from India have gone to europe,better off how many footballers from India have made it to the world stage? Now I know I was only dreaming and one should think practical in such situations. INDIA is ony good for one sport which is not even followed by most of the world-Cricket played by 31 something odd number of countries where as football which is played by almost all countries has a very bleak future in our country.

singh007 August 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Sorry I forgot a L in only – spelling error or too fast typing*

raj August 19, 2008 at 12:03 am

Just be aware…less than million and probably 500k people out of a population of 1+ billion play any active sport in India. That is one of the reasons why India win fewer medals.

PS: When are we going to get rid of sports like Fencing?

raj August 19, 2008 at 12:03 am

Just be aware…less than million and probably 500k people out of a population of 1+ billion play any active sport in India. That is one of the reasons why India win fewer medals.

PS: When are we going to get rid of sports like Fencing?

Kerishma August 20, 2008 at 8:17 am

I read an interesting article a few days back about how India can win medals in almost all sports in the Olympics..If we dare to look deep into the India..
-Anyone who has been to a traditional India Mela or fair would have noticed young girls walking on ropes ,performing exercises with such agility and coordination that most Olympic gymnasts would shudder at the sight..
-Fishermen on the east and southern coast of India swim everyday in treacherous and dangerous waters with speeds faster than several olympians..
-fragile looking women t construction sites lift heavy weights like bricks and iron rods on their heads with perfect balance without even touching their load..

What if these people and several other people like them were to be trained and sent to the olympics..these people donot even get 2-square meals a day..What if the were given the diet of someone like Phelps(i heard his daily calorie intake is 12,000 cals)..

I think India has tremendous potential..there are just 2 problems

1.we are no looking in the right places..
2.we are not looking at all..

Prijish August 20, 2008 at 7:10 pm

hey friends the indian goverments mistake is the main reson for this issue…

b coz indian government gives more money to the medal winners but they need to spend the money to the practice persons.

so wat u think friends….

The practice equipments are very less in India if they spend the money to the equipments it will makes more medal winners in india†¦.

Is Indian government do that???

chanakya August 21, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Why are we so deperate for Olympic Medals. It is an organization created and sustained by european/or euro centric culture.

Why should Indian see them selves as winners if they get adulation from the euro-centric people.

Are we Indian’s, house slaves. Always want to look good in the eyes of our masters.
We have our own universe with (1 bil+) and we have our way of doing things.

By conducting the olympics, China has legitamized a Western organization. Why can’t we have our own Chanakya Games. or ashoka games or Confusian games….etc….

Let the other countries feel proud winning medals. But in our system and in our way,.

Anonymous August 22, 2008 at 4:21 am

This is a hot discussion. Indian really care about Olympics.

So, do it.

abhishek August 22, 2008 at 1:15 pm

how about 20 20

Martin August 23, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Sorry guys

but NOBODY outside the UK, India, Australia etc cares one bit about cricket.

it’s played in ONE european country.

you are out of your mind when u are saying “It is patently more popular, more widespread (and more pleasing to watch) than almost any current Olympic event?”

ridiculous !

Nobody in France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the USA, CHina, Japan, most of Africa, most of south american has ever even seen a game of cricket, let alone understand it.

claire August 24, 2008 at 3:10 am

hi loved this site it was so informing and i agree sport does cost alot of money wwwwwwwwwwwwoooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!

charles darwin August 24, 2008 at 3:19 pm

goes back the same question.

1. india, 600 milllion was a colony of Britain until 1947.

2. biggest losers in olympics in 60 years.

3. No contribution to science-tech. for 500 years.

4. google: IQ and Wealth of Natins. professor richard lynn.

5. half of the women are illiterare. cannot read.

6. cannot win at olympics.
colony of UK until 1947.

7. Want the truth. IQ of 81.
about 20-25 below IQ of whites, asians in japan, korea

the facts, truth speak for itself.

Rick August 24, 2008 at 6:47 pm

The only reason that India has not done “well” in the Olympics is that they haven’t tried, yet. Excuses like caste and hot, damp weather, social immobility and vegetarianism are just excuses. As one writer mentioned there are myriads of tall, strong, flexible individuals in a country of a billion people. Just travel around a bit and you will see them everywhere. As for lack of diet, just check out all the “fat Brahmins”. As for lack of strength, just check out all the day laborers who break rocks all day long and carry them on their heads. As for lack of agility, remember the contortionists who wander from mehla to mehla. As for lack of concentration, yoga and meditation originated in India.
India is only fifty years … one full generation … away from having been a colony in the Empire, and is just now coming into her own once more. Look at the fabulous palaces and forts that were built by hand. Athleticism is not just a Eurocentric phenomenon, and winning is not an alien concept. Self esteem was taken from them by colonialism and is returning in the new post-Rajiv Ghandi generation. As an American who has traveled extensively for years in India, I have seen a country in change … a country that will be a major player on the world stage in every way, including athletics.
In another dozen years this will be a non-issue as India will be winning medals with the same enthusiasm and dominance in some sports as they are dominating the software industry which will finance future Olympic hopefuls(are you listening Infosys?). My only questions are: When will the air pollution and trash be controlled? and When will the political corruption be eliminated?
GO INDIA!!!

Indian August 25, 2008 at 2:28 am

One important message to all those who are counting their number of medals in olympics. Do you know who taught you how to count??. Indians with an IQ of 81. With out numbers we are nothing.

Albert Einstein, American Scientist: “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made!”

We dont care, whether we are good at games or some other things. We do have our own personal preferences. Stop thinking about others and think about getting more medals in the next olympics.
All the best…

JH August 25, 2008 at 3:39 am

Rick:

I don’t think the issue is “Indians have not tried”. I believe the main issue is the government management issue.

To let people try sports, a basic infrastrucuter is absolutely required. For example, every elementary school needs place to do track and field, all kinds of balls, gyms, swimming pools, etc.

I now live in US and within near distance of my house, all kinds of facilities are within distance. It is so easy to try tennis, or go swimming.

Back decade ago when I was in Chinese University, we were in Q and fighting hard to get into a tennis court. The sport infrastructure in China was very poor and still is poor compared to US. China did well this time mainly due to government elite focused infrastructure and $ spending plus huge population of talent pool. US does well because of high income level and easy access to sport infrasture. There is no magic in Olympic gold medals.

From my reading here, I think Indian’s sport infrastructure is severely lacking. This is not surprising as I read recently that 36 km driving from Banglore to airport would take 4 hours. Indian government is doing poorly on highway infrastructure right now. That said, road infrastructure is much more important than sport infrastructure.

Having said that, spending on sport infrastructure and winning medal should be a lot easier than building infrastructure of roads, bridges, etc.

If Indian government has the will to improve medal from now on, Indian can host Olympic in 20 years and win lots of medals in 2028. Asia now has 3 countries that hosted Olympic, India should be the 4th.

Juniak August 25, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Indians are no different physically than any groups in the world. Clearly they’re just not all that interested in providing an environment and infrastructure for their athletes to compete in the elite world class level. So what? Perhaps they’d rather spend their resources on something more important.

Juniak August 25, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Indians are no different physically than any groups in the world. Clearly they’re just not all that interested in providing an environment and infrastructure for their athletes to compete in the elite world class level. So what? Perhaps they’d rather spend their resources on something more important.

Rick August 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

I agree, totally. Corruption is the name of the game. It’s who you know, not what you know or can do that counts. If India can solve that problem, all of the rest will fall into place and India will be something to reckon with at all levels. Perhaps things will change, but it will take a major social revolution to eliminate the corrupt bureaucrats and officials who got their jobs by kowtowing to the corrupt bureaucrats and officials who proceeded them. It’s a closed system, and that’s why so many Indians want to leave. But, that is India’s loss and our gain. Now we have added them to our mix. We have athletes, TV presenters, business leaders, and neighbors who are ethnic Indians, but cultural Americans. Mississippi Massala has blended into the American melting pot and given us a great, new addition. Just look at MTV and you can see the influence of Bollywood dance styles. But, back to the original question: corruption is the cause.

singh007 August 29, 2008 at 11:33 pm

The Indian Govt. does’nt like to spend on building sports infrastructure et all related things to sports,whatever……………. so in my opinion F#@$ them all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dibyo September 8, 2008 at 6:45 am

I’m Indian (and stay here too), and I’d agree with the state subsidies + infrastructure thing. But the problem that aggravates is the immense corruption in the ‘system’. Most sports administrators are mainstream politicians, and are doing it for a purely financial and political reason. In fact, I’d point at the sports administration system for all the mess.

Note that Bindra, the gold medallist, has virtually done it on his own. He comes from a well-to-do family, which could afford to make him his own fully-loaded shooting range at home. The rest of the shooting team, which was at the mercy of the sports administration, barely had bullets to practice with.

jasmine September 25, 2008 at 6:11 pm

3 out of the 10 richest people in the world are Indians!!!!!
and the reason why we havent won medals in Olmpics is cause we have not TRIED!!!
Half of the population in India is poor and all they care about is how to survive for another day they dont give a damn about Olympics…or sports

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