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Move from stars to culture

Move from stars to culture
Highlights

A Sania Mirza and a Leander Paes are the epitomes of India\'s sporting success. Media celebrates the spectacular successes with banner headlines. Having made India proud with their exploits, they deserve the accolades and financial bonanzas the governments shower.

A Sania Mirza and a Leander Paes are the epitomes of India's sporting success. Media celebrates the spectacular successes with banner headlines.

Having made India proud with their exploits, they deserve the accolades and financial bonanzas the governments shower.

But, what is unpardonable is the political indifference and media amnesia to the mundane aspects of the country’s sporting eco-system and the agonising facets of our sports culture.

A host of factors are responsible for condemning a nation of one billion people to contend with one Olympic gold medal. Even a tiny nation like Surinam has such a distinction.

An exclusive passion of select individuals, sports, per se, is yet to become integral to the average Indian’s lifestyle. There is a lot of talk about making physical education compulsory at the school level. But, educational institutions are hit by a dearth of infrastructural facilities that could help unearth champion materials. The mushrooming of teaching shops is sounding death-knell for playgrounds.

Swami Vivekananda said “a sound mind is in a sound body.” But parents, nurturing romantic aspirations of their children’s academic future, are rather compelled to discourage their children from playing sports.

Education has become such a torturous activity that leisure is a scarce commodity. Consequent to the bookworm culture, there is a definite rise in obese cases among school-going children. With spiralling urban land prices, playgrounds and open spaces are gradually becoming endangered. Neighbourhood recreational activities are lacking.

Rampant administrative corruption is stifling genuine talent. Cultural stereotypes hinder women's participation in outdoor sports. Parents proudly proclaim when the daughter gets into Indian classical music or dance but not many will show the same enthusiasm to tell that their daughter is a judo exponent.

Irregularities exist from the procurement of sports utilities to selection of athletes. Bureaucratic redtapism is the order of the day. A majority of those into administration have never played any sport although they do not hesitate to play with the sentiments of sportspersons. The incentive structure is highly skewed and utterly elitist-oriented.

The millionaire athletes are rewarded with moneybags while the talent at the grass-roots level hardly gets doles.Promotion of sports is not a priority sector in our economy. The governments consider subsidies on sports goods as non-essential subsidies.

A dip in exports, a rise in inflation and a fall in growth rate create a storm in Parliament. But, our policy makers neither have the time nor interest to debate on what ails Indian sports. To make matters worse, low levels of nutrition and archaic attitudes towards physical work mar Indians from moving ahead in sports.

It has reached such a sorry state that the country cannot be guaranteed an Olympic medal in any discipline. Kenya and Ethiopia, two of the world's poorest countries, produce middle distance champions every other year. It is time India moved out from celebrating star culture and evolved a vibrant result-oriented sports culture.

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