The London Olympics came to a glorious end and most athletes have gone home to rousing heroes’ welcome. India this year, has found much cause for celebration – its Olympians brought home six medals, the highest number ever in its history of Olympic participation.
For a cynic, that’s hardly achievement coming from a country of 1.2 billion people, which like an analyst said, is one medal for every 20 million Indians. Economists see it differently though. For them, not just the six medals, but the very number of participants in the games, is an indicator of the country’s economic progress.
It sure is. Indians are realizing that they can actually now afford to pursue their talents and hone them to be internationally competitive by demanding the right facilities and resources. As heartening as the changing economic circumstance and mindsets is – and as we pat the backs of our medal winners and shower them with monetary incentives – the fact remains that it’s far from enough.
I’m not going to sermonize over the whys of India’s woeful lack of sporting talent, because in the absence of intrigue over the reasons any analysis would lead to either finding faults or excuses. So it’s not India that I am intrigued by. It is China.
What is it that China does – given the same challenges of region and population – that it could rise to the level of going almost neck to neck with the US in the medal tally and at times even challenging the supremacy of the Americans, merely in the span of two Olympics. China has left the likes of Russia, UK, Canada and Australia, traditionally sports-dominant nations, far behind in terms of final medal intake.
Is China’s performance at the Olympics an indicator of its economic power? It proved its might when it hosted the most spectacular of Olympic events in 2008. 2012 was a reiteration of that economic statement and I wouldn’t be surprised if it outdoes the United States in 2016.
But there is more to China than just economics. It has to be national pride. Counter that, anyone?