Daily Management Review

What stops India from being an Olympic champion?


Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter once called India a "sleeping giant". The country takes 150th place in the ranking of the world teams, which is clearly not suitable for a country with a population of 1.3 billion.

India won only one gold medal since 1980. Fans put great hopes on the country at the Olympic Games in Rio. However, it still looks like one of the world’s most populous and fastest-growing economies is going to be left without Olympic gold once again. 

India is characterized by a huge variety of people, so racial or genetic characteristics are not a correct explanation for its sports failures, says Anirudh Krishna, a professor at Duke University and co-author of a study "Why do some countries win more Olympic medals?".

The high level of poverty is not the main limitation either. For example, Kenya and Jamaica, where per capita income is still less, do much better.

Scientists note that India does not have a sports culture, and Indian athletes, achieved success in the international arena, are exceptions, rather than products of the country’s sports system. Nurturing leaders is simply impossible without consistent creation and maintenance of good environment.

In India, education is a priority for an average household, particularly when compared with sport. A popular Hindi saying roughly translates as: "If you study hard, you'll live like a king, but if you want to do sports, it will destroy your life". Residents of India are mainly engaged in climbing the socio-economic ladder. This concept has been popular for many decades. The existing state of things does not contribute in discovering sports talents in local communities, schools and universities.

In addition, very few people in the country support sporting achievements. The problem is compounded by lack of investment, and poor management of assets. Apparently, this is unlikely to change, even despite the government's intentions.

In recent years, the Indian authorities have introduced grants and payments to athletes. The benefits guarantee a basic minimum standard of living, yet the system is too loaded with bureaucrats, political interference, corruption and conflict of interest.

In 2012, Indian Olympic Association has been excluded from election of the IOC’s Head because of a corruption scandal. As a result, Indian athletes at the Olympic Games in Sochi went under the IOC flag.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, intends to introduce economic incentives to improve athletic performance of the country. However, his administration is severely limited in terms of additional costs, therefore it is necessary to focus on public-private partnership schemes.

Administration of tax incentives would also help. For example, you can at least reduce the import duties on expensive exercise equipment or release of athletes from the need to pay taxes to the payout.

On the other hand, the country is traditionally strong in sports that are very undeveloped and unpopular in other countries. For example, India has one of the strongest cricket teams in world since this kind of sport is considered to be the number 1 in the country. India has a good tennis academy, and Indian tennis players are very strong in doubles. Many of them are multiple winners of the Grand Slam tournaments in a variety of paired disciplines. 

Of course, India cannot yet boast with great results in the traditionally popular kinds such as football, hockey, basketball. At the same time, the country’s Major Football League occupies the 4th place by average attendance (more than 25,000). In addition, National Basketball Association (the NBA) has one Indian native. 

source: cnbc.com