Saturday, August 09, 2008

India at the Olympics

The whole world is speaking of the Bird’s nest, the coming of age of China and the spectacle, called the Olympics. The opening ceremony was nothing short of wonderful, breathtaking, to say the least. The sheer volume and scale was impressive. 80 world leaders – PMs and chancellors – Putin, Sarkozy and good ol Bush, the King and Queen of Spain, (another stint after Wimbledon this year), were present cheering for their teams from the spectator’s arena. There are two televised events that help jog my geography – The Miss Universe Pageant and the Olympics. Seriously, how else would I be able to remember places like Aruba, Samoa and Djibouti while playing Name-Place-Animal-Thing? Although the Olympics are associated with a better legacy, and their motivating origins were a lot more noble! But on the more applauding side, it was heartening to see participants from Burundi (which topped the list of the World’s saddest nations), Afghanistan, and Iraq. For these people, the Olympics are a BIIIIIIIIG DEAL!!!!

Apparently not for our loved sportspeople. Yes, I am speaking of our Olympic contingent. Dapper young men, all clad in traditional Sherwanis and the women? Well no sense of decorum and respect whatsoever. Sania Mirza, for instance, clad in shabby sportsgear, to say the least, chewing on the annoying piece of gum! The reason – these women did not have assistance to drape a saree! First of all, does a 20 something woman need to be helped to drape a saree? Especially when the trend today is to wear a sari for all occasions, from farewell parties to weddings. Secondly, if someone in the contingent was wearing a sari, didn’t that signify ‘assistance’? It is plain arrogance and the weird trait in people of our generation, wherein they take pride in not knowing to speak in their mother tongue or for that matter wearing a sari or celebrating anything Indian.

To me, and I guess for a large part of the Indian audience, this actually amounts to defiance and high-handedness. Well, if a global stage where you represent India is something very menial and in Maya Sarabhai’s words – ‘sooo middle class’, please refrain from the same. We don’t even win as many medals as warrants the cultivation of such snobbish and ‘blasé’ behavior. In comparison, the Spanish contingent, that contained Tennis World Number 1 in waiting, Nadal, was more cohesive and appealing. Likewise the Swiss team led by Federer. Then walked in the American contingent, as harmonious as harmonious can be. In spite of greats like Davenport and Gay, there was not an ounce of the nonchalance that we Indians showed. In what way are we superior to those teams as we stand today, future results notwithstanding? Even if we suddenly improve our performance, and win some medals, are we bigger than the Olympics? Can we show defiance and disrespect to the games? No one can rise to that level, definitely not any sportsperson from our contingent.

If only we managed to bring in some more discipline in things and acted serious in everything we did, we could perhaps aspire to be a true superpower, respected and venerated……

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