July 8, 2012

India at the Olympics

Srinath Narayanan takes a look at Olympic games with reference to India. History, importance of Olympics and much more. Don't miss this interesting read.

India at the Olympics
By Srinath Narayanan

I had my first taste of watching the Summer Olympics in 2000, the Sydney Olympics, when I was about 6 years old (I don’t think I remember much about the Atlanta Olympics). I am sure, apart from war and cricket and maybe Anna Hazare, this will definitely be one of the things that will bring all the people in our nation together. Thinking about it, all I could remember was Marian Jones getting all the 5 medals she promised she would get. But even at that age, it felt patriotic and thrilling to see Leander Paes holding our flag and marching to our Anthem and to feel proud when Karnam Malleswari got a medal ( for a long time, that was like the only medal India had, until Abhinav Bindra made us all proud). We have got about 18 days to go for the London Olympics, 2012, and so I thought I would write about it.

A brief history

Now, we all know about the glorious history of Olympics, that although it officially got under way from 1896, the tradition is actually 2788 years old, having started in 776 BC.  The International Olympic Committee(IOC) was formed in the year 1894, created by Pierre de Coubertin, with Demetrios Vikelas as its first president.  The first Olympic event was held in Athens, Greece in 1896, which was held for just 9 days with the participation of just 10 countries, and United States just narrowly brushed away Greece to top the tables with 11 Gold Medals, while Greece won 10 gold medals. 

 So, why are the Olympics so important?

 Apart from economy and military , sports has always been one of the ways for countries to showcase their talent and superiority, and hence the Olympics, which is held once in four years is considered a very significant event by nations all over the World.  We have seen how USA and Soviet Union tried to compete for the supremacy in Cold War times, and how China tries to dominate in the modern era.

Besides, the whole idea of Olympics in ancient Greece was that, at that time, Greece was not one unified country, but several different City States, and every 4 years, the states would come together to participate in the Olympics, as a way of promoting peace.  This continued as a tradition, and even now, the logo of the modern Olympics, the 5 rings, indicate that the 5 continents are at peace, thereby making Olympics an instrument of promoting peace, and bringing the different nations together.

the 5 olympic rings

India’s performance in the Olympics

The Indian Olympic Association(IOA) was formed in 1928. I am sure a lot of us know how hockey became our national game. We won the gold medals in the first six editions of the competition, since we started to compete in 1928 up until 1956(there were no Olympics in 1940 and 1944 and ) before we were beaten by Pakistan in the 1960 games. We continued to get medals in hockey up until 1980 Moscow games. Dhyan Chand was the hero of the Olympics at that time, winning three Gold Medals(1928, 1932 and 1936). When the hockey team stopped winning medals though, India stopped winning medals

Abhinav Bindra with the gold medal

We all have heard about the heartbreak for PT Usha in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Leander Paes, then won the bronze at 1996 Olympics, and we already mentioned Karnam Malleswari. Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore became the first Indian to win a medal at shooting, and we got our first Silver Medal in a discipline that was not hockey. 2008 Beijing Olympics would be well remembered, for we won more medals in that event than any other event(just 3 medals though, I hope we reach a level soon where 10 Gold Medals, and we are not surprised). Abhinav Bindra got the gold medal in shooting and Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar got bronze medals in boxing and wrestling respectively. But enough of history, let’s move on to the present.

Possible Indian contenders for medal the London Olympics :

India will field a total of 81 athletes in 13 disciplines. In archery, we have Deepaki Kumari(a girl younger than me :O), ranked No:1 in the World competing in the Olympics. We don’t have a Olympic medal in Archery yet, but there is a first time for everything.

Badminton will be one of the disciplines where India will definitely be hoping for a medal, with Saina Nehwal in singles and Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnapa in the doubles.

We have good reason to hope for a medal in Boxing as well, with Vijender Singh in men’s and Mary Kom is the Women’s being our main hope. And while no one expects the Indian Hockey team to get a medal, this might well be a blessing in disguise for them, with not so much pressure, let’s expect them to do the unexpected, with the help of the new coach, Michael Nobbs.

Shooting has always been a big hope for India to get medals in the major events over the past decade, and Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, and Manavjit Singh Sandhu are the big names here.

We have a fantastic team in tennis, and if our players managed to play together, we might as well stand good chances here, and finally, Sushil Kumar will be back to go one or maybe even two better from his show in the 2008 Olympics in Wrestling. So, having looked at the current contenders, I think it would be realistic to hope for 5 medals, what do you guys think? In any case, let’s get into the Olympic mood and start cheering for team India!