June 7, 2023

Great Indian Mutiny

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Olympiad of the difference between India and China

The recent Tokyo Olympics 10 years ago provided additional evidence as to why the popular word “Cynthia” is now rarely heard. While China’s decent product produced a large number of medals, India’s chaotic organization put it behind the Bahamas and Kosovo.

NEW DELHI – The people and government in Japan are sighing with relief as the Tokyo Olympics are over and the show has passed without a big bang in the Olympic Village or other catastrophes. Here in India, the celebrations for the country’s first gold medal in the men’s javelin throw competition still continue (and its best medal harvest at any Olympiad). But is there so much to be happy about?

About ten years ago, it was customary to refer to India and China together in a single sentence. After centuries of Western influence, they must be the new rivals for world domination, the Eastern response to generations of Western economic success. Some talked about “Cynthia” as if the two countries were an inseparable part of international thought.

But, this integration, to be precise, look at the medal table in Tokyo. China finished second with 38 gold medals (one less than the United States) and a total of 88 medals. Beyond Belarus, Georgia, the Bahamas and the secluded province of Kosovo (whose independence India does not recognize), we now go on the list. There, in 48th place, India has a total of seven medals: one gold, two silver and four bronze.

This is not surprising. Although China has continued to try to win the Olympics since re-entering the World Athletics Championships after years of isolation, India is not overly concerned about its lack of athleticism. China has denied the right to host the Summer Olympics after two decades. But after the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, India rested on its laurels and now seems to be lagging behind four decades ago in hosting the Olympics.

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Prior to the 2008 Beijing Games, China’s “Project 119” government program was designed to improve the country’s Olympic performance (119 represents the number of gold medals awarded at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney for track and field, swimming, rowing, sailing and kayaking). Indians, on the other hand, wonder if they can break their glass ceiling by ten medals.

China, looking at the number of medals to be won by kayak, decided to form a team that could master a hitherto unknown sport in the Middle Kingdom. But Kabaddi, who played in the 1900 Olympics (a form of team wrestling), did not even know how India lobbied for polo or some sports played in cricket. Again ..

In addition, China has maintained its dominance in table tennis and badminton and developed new strengths in other non-traditional sports such as shooting. India, on the other hand, has ended its undeniable dominance in artificial grass discovery field hockey, which was the cause of great celebration when the men’s team won the bronze medal in Tokyo. If we talk about games, there is no “Cynthia”: you can not name two countries in one sentence.

What happened at the Olympics, which ended in the Japanese capital, is a sign of the fundamental difference between the organizations of the two countries. Figuratively speaking, the creative confusion of Bollywood musicians against the finest dancing precision of the 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony.

The Chinese, fit for a communist dictatorship, faced the task of dominating the Olympics with top-down military discipline. The goal was set, a plan was outlined to achieve it, substantial state resources were allocated, sophisticated technology was obtained, and primary trainers were imported. In contrast, India approached the Tokyo Olympics like everyone else, with its usual well-intentioned amateur, bureaucratic incompetence, aimless experimentation and disorder.

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We are like that. If Chinese authorities want to build new six-lane roads, they can roll bulldozers in every city they encounter. But, in India, to widen the two-way, you have to spend ten years arguing in court about compensation. In China, national priorities are set by the government and funded by the state; In India, they emerge from endless debate and debate among countless interested groups; And see where the funding comes from. China’s budget for preparing its athletes for the Tokyo Olympics will be higher than what India has spent on training for each Olympics in the last 70 years.

That is: India creates personal excellence despite the limitations of the system, the product of the individual success system in China. Indians excel where there is a free way to personal talents. The country has produced world-class statistics in computer science, mathematics, biotechnology, film and literature. But in the face of challenges that require high-level organization, rigorous discipline, sophisticated equipment, proper training and resilient budgets, Indians are stumbling. It says that the only sport that India has won the World Championship in recent years is billiards and chess.

In Tokyo, India were the favorites in the shooting, but did not even get a medal due to setbacks such as the delay in repairing the defect in the world champion pistol. The best table tennis player was not allowed to be his personal coach and he refused the help of the official Indian coach and was prompted to take disciplinary action. Our representative on the ramp (number one in the world) did not pass the qualifying round.

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India’s sporting talent pool does not match the size of its population; In a country full of existential challenges, competition for every opportunity is intense, and very few people feel dedicated to the time it takes to master a skill or a sport. The system is not designed to unleash athletic talent, and many of them lack the health, nutrition, sports infrastructure and training resources that allow them to advance globally.

India is a controversial democracy, unlike China, which will win many medals at the future Olympics, but India can win among supporters.


Sasi Tharoor, former UN Under-Secretary-General and former Indian Foreign Minister and Minister for Human Resource Development, is the Vice President of the Indian National Congress. He is the author of Box Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century.

Translation: Estephen Flamini

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2020