In­dia doesn’t care about the Games

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

AROUND a giant screen show­ing the Olympics in a cen­tral New Delhi park, young In­di­ans chat, take self­ies or snooze in the late af­ter­noon heat, glanc­ing only oc­ca­sion­ally at the heroic sport­ing feats on dis­play.

In­dia is the world’s sec­ond-most pop­u­lous coun­try and has am­bi­tions to be­come a global su­per­power. But when it comes to the Olympics it re­mains a min­now – a sta­tus matched by the public’s supreme in­dif­fer­ence to the Games.

In 2012 In­dia won just six medals – one for ev­ery 200 mil­lion In­di­ans – mak­ing it the coun­try with the worst Olympic record in terms of medals per head of pop­u­la­tion.

Gov­ern­ment ef­forts to en­thuse the public by or­gan­is­ing live screen­ings and other events have largely fallen flat in a coun­try that comes to a com­plete stand­still for a ma­jor cricket match.

“Peo­ple are not too in­ter­ested in it. I think they’re more into cricket and foot­ball and stuff, not the Olympics,” stu­dent Anusha Sharma told AFP in Delhi’s Cen­tral Park.

Sharma said she had not known the Olympics were be­ing shown there, but had spot­ted the big screen as she was pass­ing and wan­dered over to see what was go­ing on.

“I re­ally like it that they’re screen­ing the Olympics to let the peo­ple know,” she said of the ini­tia­tive.

The dis­play fea­tures bill­boards on the history of the Games and giant card­board cut-outs of In­dia’s Olympic ath­letes for sup­port­ers to take self­ies with – though most of the young peo­ple there seemed more in­ter­est­ing in tak­ing self­ies with each other.

In­dia has sent a 118-strong con­tin­gent to Rio, its largest ever for an Olympic Games, and the sports min­istry has set a tar­get of 10 medals.

But ath­letes com­plain of sub­stan­dard train­ing facilities and a lack of gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment in sport in a coun­try that has en­joyed two decades of rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and has a boom­ing pop­u­la­tion of 1.25 bil­lion.

“In In­dia there is a lot of tal­ent, but there’s no source to har­ness this tal­ent,” said Prakhar Sri­vas­tava, another of the Cen­tral Park spec­ta­tors.

That is in stark con­trast to the huge sums poured into cricket.

The coun­try even chose crick­et­ing hero Sachin Ten­dulkar as one of its Olympic am­bas­sadors, along­side Bollywood star Sal­man Khan.

For com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­pert Pri­tam Sinha, the ex­pla­na­tion for the lack of public en­thu­si­asm for the Games is sim­ple – na­tional pride.

“Cricket World Cup is dif­fer­ent. The craze for that for us in In­dia can’t be matched with Olympic sports,” he said.

“We know we can beat any­body in the world on a par­tic­u­lar day. That is why we love the cricket World Cup more.” –

Photo: AFP

An In­dian man sits alone, watch­ing the Rio Olympics on a giant screen in New Delhi.

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